Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith was intentionally vague when discussing the ankle injury cornerback Jeff Okudah suffered on Friday. Smith explained to reporters that he essentially didn’t want to overreact until the 24-year-old underwent an MRI.
Okudah’s MRI confirmed that was certainly the correct approach.
Smith shared with reporters after practice on Saturday that Okudah’s ankle injury is not season ending. In fact, Smith said he expects the cornerback to be back on the field early in the 2023 season.
Smith did not elaborate any further on the specifics of Okudah’s injury.
The cornerback left Friday’s practice on a cart after suffering a lower-leg injury. The injury occurred while Okudah was defending wide receiver Frank Darby in a one-on-one drill.
Initially, Okudah and the Falcons appeared to fear the worst.
“Looked pretty crushed when he was being loaded up onto the cart with the help of trainers,” wrote Atlantafalcons.com’s Tori McElhaney in a Twitter post.
After Okudah departed the field, the Falcons secondary “took a knee” and “said a prayer” for the injured cornerbacks, according to WSBTV’s David Hickox.
Okudah, who the Detroit Lions drafted at No. 3 overall in the 2020 NFL draft, has suffered a lot of injuries during his NFL career. He missed Week 1 of his rookie season in 2020 because of a hamstring injury. He finished his rookie campaign on injured reserve because of a core muscle injury.
Then in 2021, he tore an Achilles tendon in Week 1, which caused him to miss the rest of the season.
Last year, Okudah missed one game because of a concussion and another due to an elbow injury.
In 25 NFL games, Okudah has posted 124 combined tackles, including 6 tackles for loss. He has also recorded 10 pass defenses and 2 interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
The Falcons acquired Okudah for a fifth-round pick on April 11.