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Thursday April 26th, 2018 12:05AM

Falcons RB Devonta Freeman clears concussion protocol

By The Associated Press

FLOWERY BRANCH (AP) — Falcons running back Devonta Freeman has cleared the concussion protocol after missing two games and could return for Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings.

Coach Dan Quinn said Wednesday Freeman has full clearance to practice "with no limitations."

Freeman, the league's highest paid running back, has suffered two concussions this year and three in three years. He said he discussed the concussions with a doctor and isn't worried about his future.

"It's not something I'm worried about for the rest of my life," Freeman said. "If anything is going to happen, it's going to happen. You can't live and dwell on what happened in the past. You just move forward."

Freeman suffered the concussion on the second play of a win over Dallas on Nov. 12. Tevin Coleman started in wins over Seattle and Tampa Bay .

Freeman also spent the last two weeks of the preseason in concussion protocol. He missed one game after suffering a concussion against the Colts on Nov. 22, 2015.

He said he accepts the risk of concussions.

"I know what I signed up for," Freeman said. "It's a gladiator sport. You just have to be aware of everything that can happen because it can happen at any time."

Freeman added concussions are "part of football."

"You're going to get concussions," he said. "Hey, if it happens again, it happens again. I'm a competitor. I'm a dog. I'm still going to try to be the same Free. I'm going to work the same way. Nothing is going to change."

Freeman said through more education on concussions he is "doing it the smart way" and "protecting myself for longevity."

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Wednesday it is "just another pain in our rear end" for his defense to prepare for both Freeman and Coleman.

"They've both got a little different styles so part of it is knowing who is in the game," Zimmer said. "Freeman is explosive, great stop-and-start guy. Runs physically with his pads. Looks like he's got great vision. Coleman is a speed guy. I've been impressed with the way he's run the ball between the tackles. And they both catch the ball well out of the backfield."

He said he expects to have fresher legs after missing two games.

"Definitely. I feel anybody who gets that time off, especially in the middle of the season, you're going to be fresher than the other guys," he said. "It's a blessing in disguise. I'm just going to take it and run with it."

Quinn said the team wants to protect Freeman's long-term health.

"Yeah, from a medical side that was something we discussed from this year," Quinn said. "He had two this year, one from training camp and one from three weeks ago.

"We're going to always take great care of our guys. We care about them on the field, off the field."

Quinn said "we totally trust" team doctors to monitor the concussion protocol and determine when a player is ready to return.

Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant is in concussion protocol after leaving last week's win over Tampa Bay following a collision with teammate Keanu Neal.

Freeman negotiated a five-year, $41.25 contract extension before the season that makes him the league's highest-paid running back in terms of the overall package. His average salary is $8.25 million.

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Falcons RB Devonta Freeman clears concussion protocol
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