FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Atlanta Falcons cornerback Jeff Okudah was carted off the field during Friday’s practice after suffering a right ankle injury early in practice, with coach Arthur Smith saying Okudah will have an MRI to learn the severity of the injury.
Okudah, 24, was injured during a one-on-one drill against the Atlanta receivers. He was on the ground for a minute or two before a cart came to the side of the field to take him back to the locker room. While he was on the cart, a trainer was holding Okudah’s right leg.
“You really never know until you get an MRI,” Smith said after practice. “The longer you’re in this, you see things that looked awful and thankfully the guy’s OK or that didn’t look very bad, a little incidental bump, and that’s kind of what happened to [Ethan] Greenidge the other day and unfortunately he’s going to have to have surgery so he goes on IR.”
Smith said he hopes the MRI gives them optimistic news and that Okudah will eventually return.
After the injury, Smith spoke briefly to the defensive backs, who all took a knee before returning to practice.
“It sucks,” said running back Cordarrelle Patterson, who didn’t see the injury because he was working on the other field. “Jeff has been working his ass off each and every day proving his self, and a guy to go down like that, it sucks.”
In April, the Falcons traded with the Detroit Lions for Okudah, who is in the final year of his rookie contract. Okudah, the No. 3 pick in the 2020 draft out of Ohio State, has dealt with a multitude of injuries in his career. He played 10 games over his first two seasons due to a groin injury that required surgery in 2020 and a ruptured left Achilles in 2021.
“Unfortunately Jeff’s had some injuries, and sometimes it’s not just physically with rehab, it’s mentally,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of obstacles you have to overcome, and we’re mindful of that.”
Okudah was slated to start opposite AJ Terrell, who was the No. 16 pick in the 2020 draft. After Okudah’s injury, Tre Flowers took his spot with the first unit. The Falcons have tried to build their depth at cornerback this offseason, and Okudah was expected to be the fourth straight different Week 1 starter opposite Terrell at cornerback after Isaiah Oliver in 2020, Fabian Moreau in 2021 and Casey Hayward in 2022.
Smith mentioned Cornell Armstrong, rookie Clark Phillips and slot corners Dee Alford and Mike Hughes as part of the cornerback group.
“There’s a lot of really good competition, and we feel like we have good depth in the DB room,” Smith said. “So if it’s something short term, somebody’s got to step up.”
In 2022, Okudah started 15 games for Detroit, making 73 tackles with seven passes defended and an interception.