Keanu Neal expects to resume his position as the Atlanta Falcons’ starting strong safety this season after missing most of 2018 with a torn ACL.
So far, Neal has been progressing well and on schedule, first at organized team activities, then at minicamp, and now at the team’s training camp practices.
Neal says his time away from the field has helped his mental approach, giving him something of a new perspective on how to play the position.
“It allowed me to see the game from a different view, support the guys and kind of build my game through that,” Neal said.
Neal missed all but part of one game this past season after he suffered an ACL tear in the Falcons’Week 1 road game against the Philadelphia Eagles, but has recovered well on schedule and is expected to resume his starting position in the secondary this coming season.
He was actually injured twice in the season opener, initially in the first half when he required attention for the knee, but was able to return to action, and then a second time, when he required some assistance to get off the field and was unable to play another down.
He underwent surgery in September and started his recovery immediately.
“So far, I feel good,” Neal said. “I’m excited to be back out there with the guys. I’m running around and playing. I’m just taking it day by day, and we’ll go from there.”
Since entering the league, Neal has recorded 220 total combined tackles, 14 pass breakups, forced eight fumbles, and has one interception. Neal has established himself as one of the hardest hitters on the Falcons’ young defense in his two NFL seasons.
In the 2017 season, he allowed 52 receptions against 74 targets (70 percent) for 536 yards, surrendered 0.88 yards per cover snap, and allowed four touchdown catches on his way to a Pro Bowl nomination. He also set a new NFL record in 2017 when he became the first defensive back to force eight fumbles in his first two NFL seasons.
This offseason, the Falcons decided to pick up the fifth year option on Neal’s contract after picking him in the first round from Florida back in 2016.
ACL recoveries typically take nine months before they are fully healed.