Falcons’ Neal suffers season-ending knee injury

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — The Atlanta Falcons will look at their current roster to replace Keanu Neal, the safety who will miss the remainder of the season after tearing a ligament in his left knee Thursday night in an 18-12 opening loss at Philadelphia.

Coach Dan Quinn said Friday he and general manager Thomas Dimitroff discussed outside options that could include free agent Pro Bowl safety Eric Reid.

“We have talked about that,” Quinn said when asked specifically about Reid.

Quinn didn’t rule out looking to acquire help in the future, but he said the first option would be a combination of Damontae Kazee, who replaced Neal in the game, and Jordan Richards, a safety who was acquired from the New England Patriots on Aug. 31.

“We’d like to go in-house first,” Quinn said. “The reason is the presence of Jordan and the emergence of Kazee. We’ll go down that road first. Then they’ll definitely be, when you put a player down for the year on IR, there will be some opportunities that we could look at as well. But from a starting standpoint look in-house first.”

The loss of Neal, a leader on the defense who was selected to his first Pro Bowl in 2017, is a major blow to the Atlanta defense.

“It’s very disappointing,” defensive end Takkarist McKinley said following a team meeting on Friday. “He is a leader on this team, our best player. Losing him, someone else has got to step up. We’ve all got to step up.”

Friday’s news was especially devastating because the initial diagnosis of the Falcons medical staff, which Quinn relayed to reporters following the game, was the injury wasn’t believed to be serious. The team learned Friday Neal had torn his anterior cruciate ligament.

“You can imagine he was certainly heartbroken,” said Quinn of Neal. “… It was a tough, emotional day.”

Neal used his Twitter account to pass along a message of faith. “TRUST in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. He has a plan,” Neal wrote.