The decision comes as no surprise after general manager Thomas Dimitroff stated in February that the team planned to go in this direction. Neal is now officially under team control through 2020 and will be looking to rebound from an ACL injury that ended his 2018 season in Week 1. The safety was seen participating in workouts as recently as last week and appears to be on track to return well before the start of the 2019 campaign.
Neal (knee) was seen lifting weights Wednesday during voluntary workouts, D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
Neal said last month that he doesn't have a firm timetable for when he expects to be 100 percent healthy, but the safety nonetheless appears to be making steady and tangible progress in his recovery from a torn ACL he suffered last September. In other news, there's been no word the fifth-year option on Neal's rookie contract has been picked up yet. Atlanta has until May 2 to do so.
Neal said Sunday that "(he doesn't) want to put a timetable on things" when asked if he expects to be ready in time for training camp, Zig Fracassi of Sirius XM Sports reports.
Neal's 15-game absence from the starting lineup was a clear detriment to Atlanta's secondary, with the Falcons ranking 27th against the pass in 2018 after averaging a 20th-place finish in that category between 2016 and 2017 when he suited up for 14-plus games. Though it was a serious injury that Neal suffered in tearing his ACL during a Week 1 loss to Philadelphia, the bright side is that the injury occurred so early in the season last year that he maintains a firm probability of being ready for Atlanta's preseason kickoff in 2019.
Neal (knee) recently posted a video on his personal Instagram account of himself going through agility drills with no brace on his left knee.
Neal, who tore his ACL in the 2018 season opener, seems to be progressing well in his recovery. It isn't clear if he'll be ready for OTAs later this spring, but the safety at least appears on track to be ready for training camp this summer. The Falcons are expected to pick up the fifth-year option on the 2016 first-rounder's contract in the near future.
Neal missed almost the entirety of the 2018 season as he suffered a torn ACL in Week 1 against the Eagles. The 2016 first-round pick may not be ready for Organized Team Activities in the spring, but he's expected to be good to go for training camp. The 23-year-old has started all 31 games he's appeared in with the Falcons and was a Pro Bowl replacement in 2017 after compiling 116 combined tackles, three forced fumbles and an interception. The team has until May 3 to provide Neal with official notice they are exercising the option.
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