When the Falcons signed Todd Gurley soon after he was released by the Rams in March, they also acquired the mystery of his knee injury history.
Nearly two months after his team added the two-time All-Pro running back, Atlanta's offensive coordinator, Dirk Koetter, admitted in a video call with local reporters that there are concerns about whether Gurley will be healthy enough to contribute in 2020.
Here it is in video form: "The main question, that no one seems to know, is what is his health status?" pic.twitter.com/ItSGnsTl8h
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) May 14, 2020
What Koetter says is fair, given that Gurley hasn't had a chance to both get and pass a physical since the signing. But being too brutally honest with the situation wasn't the best idea, given that the Falcons' front office expressed great confidence in Gurley's future health status when giving him a one-year, $5 million deal to replace the released Devonta Freeman.
The Falcons were expected to select a running back at some point during the 2020 NFL Draft for further insurance regardless, but they instead rested on the three backs they took on Day 3 in the past three drafts — in order: Ito Smith, Brian Hill and Qadree Ollison. Gurley's age (26 in August) might suggest he can still handle a feature role, but the reality is, his heavy Rams mileage and the wear and tear that came with it say he's better off with a more managed workload.
The Falcons' recent best backfield history has been a committee of Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Last season, with Freeman hurt often and Coleman gone in free agency, the rushing attack in Koetter's return ranked No. 30 in the NFL.
During Koetter's previous stint as Atlanta's offensive coordinator from 2012 to 2014, he also employed committees that included Michael Turner, Steven Jackson and Freeman in the early-down power roles and Jacquizz Rodgers as the change of pace receiving back. Based on his comments and play-calling past, overextending Gurley doesn't seem to be in Atlanta's plans.
Gurley, in his best years, has been a prolific, explosive between-the-tackles runner all the way through the red zone. With Sean McVay's offense in Los Angeles, he also became a top-flight busy receiver, leading the NFL with 2,093 yards from scrimmage.
Because of that skill set, Koetter did add that he thinks Gurley is "a heck of a player." The Falcons desperately need a 15-to-20 touch Gurley to improve an anemic running game and support a strong passing game, given that Smith, Hill and Ollison, for one reason or another, weren't effective filling in for Freeman last season.
With the current uncertainty about Gurley's health expressed by Koetter, there's now a lot more uncertainty about how much the Falcons can and will use Gurley in 2020.