It seemed like a foregone conclusion when his injury happened that Atlanta Falcons cornerback Jeff Okudah wouldn’t play in Week 1. But now four days away from the season opener, there’s still a chance Okudah could dress against the Carolina Panthers.
That’s what Falcons head coach Arthur Smith implied while talking to the media on Wednesday. Smith told reporters that Okudah “is getting close” and “ahead of where” the team expected him to be in his injury recovery.
Smith added that Okudah would not practice on Wednesday. But, Smith also didn’t rule out the cornerback playing on Sunday.
But the following day, Smith told reporters the injury was not season ending.
At that time, the Falcons expected Okudah to return early in the season. While that was tremendously positive, the fact he could still play in Week 1 is even more incredible news.
The Falcons suffered multiple injuries at cornerback during the preseason. In addition to Okudah, Mike Hughes dealt with a hip flexor injury.
But Hughes returned to practice on Monday. Once Okudah returns, the Falcons will be back to full strength at cornerback.
Atlanta acquired Okudah for a fifth-round pick in April. He is expected to be one of the team’s starting cornerbacks this season.
Okudah, though, has missed 25 games during his career because of various injuries. He started 25 contests, posting 124 combined tackles, including 6 tackles for loss in three seasons for the Detroit Lions. He also had 10 pass defenses and 2 interceptions.
In addition to cornerback, the Falcons have experienced key injuries at running back and wide receiver. Cordarrelle Patterson and KhaDarel Hodge could both miss the season opener against the Carolina Panthers.