Even Julio Jones was caught off guard when someone mentioned all the various body parts he’s had to nurse back to health this season.
Ribs. Thumb. Knee. Hip. Back. Ankle.
The ankle twice, in fact.
“Whew! All that?” he asked, sounding a bit incredulous.
Then, with a slight smile and shaking his head, Jones added, “Long season, man. Long season.”
He’s got a routine to cope with all the aches and pains.
During the week, Jones is often limited in practice or doesn’t even take the field. But by the time the game rolls around, he’s always ready to go.
“He has a real process to do that,” coach Dan Quinn said. “We’re fortunate that he’s played with injuries and kind of knows the routine of how to do it.”
That will be the case again for Saturday’s NFC divisional playoff game against the top-seeded Philadelphia Eagles .
After sitting out two days of practice with a sore ankle and going through a limited routine Thursday at the final full workout before the game, the star receiver will be in the starting lineup for the 18th consecutive time this season.
“The thing with being injured, it’s really just blocking it out,” Jones said. “Don’t use it as an excuse.”
Quinn noted that the Falcons usually have an extensive walk-through before each practice, and that’s a session that Jones rarely misses no matter how much he’s hurting. He uses the time to get familiar with the game plan, run some routes and hone his timing with quarterback Matt Ryan.
If Jones is limited during the actual practice, he focuses on plays in which he’ll likely be the primary receiver.
“We try to feature him on plays that are unique for him and Matt to be at full speed,” Quinn said. “When he goes, it’s these full-speed, aggressive routes. So that helps him as far as the timing goes.”
Jones has been on the injury report eight of the last 10 weeks, along with two other weeks early in the season.
None of the injuries were serious enough to keep him from playing, but they did require plenty of tender loving care to make sure there were no setbacks. That’s why, over the course of the last four months, the injury report has listed him as limited or out of practice more times than he’s fully participated.
Game day is a different story.