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Thursday September 23rd, 2021 5:12PM

Julio Jones feels good, tells Falcons 'You can lean on me'

By The Associated Press
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ATLANTA (AP) — Todd Gurley marveled at the way a healthy Julio Jones made playing football look like a video game.

Gurley also was impressed that a healthy Jones made the Atlanta Falcons finally look like winners.

After missing all but one half of the previous three games with a hamstring injury, Jones made a huge impact in last week's 40-23 win at Minnesota. Jones returned with eight catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns.

It was a strong reminder of the value of a healthy Jones, including in Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions.

After missing Wednesday's practice, Jones returned Thursday and spoke with enthusiasm about his recovery from the injury when he said, “Now I can go out, I can produce, I can be me, I can have fun.”

Added Jones: “Lean on me. You can lean on me throughout the game. Everything. I’m ready to go. It’s a great feeling. It’s a great spot to be in.”

Jones' return to health is big news for quarterback Matt Ryan, Gurley and Atlanta's other playmakers.

Gurley, the running back in his first season in Atlanta, already knew Jones, the first-team All-Pro pick in 2015 and 2016, is one of the NFL's top wide receivers. He also knew Jones is one of the league's most physical receivers.

Still, watching on the field as Jones used a stiff-arm against Vikings linebacker Eric Wilson to create space, turning a short pass from Ryan into a 40-yard touchdown, was a revelation for Gurley.

Gurley said it was like watching Jones in a video game.

“Just looked easy, bro," Gurley said Wednesday. “Just like, I don’t know what to tell you, I really don’t. It’s a credit to him, how consistent he’s been able to be in his years in the league. Not only just to see it up close in person, him and Matt looking like they’re playing NFL Blitz. It just was that play he stiff-armed a linebacker and just keeps running.”

Added Gurley: “It just tells you, you get a healthy Julio playing, you get a win. I’ll take that every time.”

The first win for the Falcons (1-5) in the debut of Raheem Morris as interim coach provided a boost for the team's confidence entering the game against Detroit. Ryan threw for four touchdowns and the offense gained 462 yards.

“It was very important for us, as an organization and just for everything about us,” Jones said. “We’ve got to go into this game like last week. We’ve got to have our swag back. We’ve just got to go out there and play for one another. We’ve got to have fun doing it.”

Tight end Hayden Hurst said just having Jones on the field lifted the offense's confidence. Hurst, who began his career in Baltimore, compared watching Jones in person with being on the field with Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.

“Being on the field for it, being able to see it in person is just totally different,” Hurst said. “Being on the field with Julio and seeing how explosive he is and what he does to guys from a speed standpoint, from a strength standpoint, is remarkable.”

___

More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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