Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper won’t play Sunday at Carolina while nursing an MCL sprain in his left knee, a source told ESPN on Monday.
Hooper suffered the injury in the Falcons’ 26-9 win over the New Orleans Saints. An MRI revealed the sprain, but Hooper will get a second opinion to see how long the injury will sideline him.
Hooper leads the Falcons with 56 receptions, three more receptions than receiver Julio Jones has recorded. Hooper also leads the Falcons with six touchdown receptions to go with his 608 receiving yards.
The Falcons are preparing to proceed this week without perhaps two key offensive players, with Hooper dealing with the MCL sprain and running Devonta Freeman dealing with a foot sprain. Freeman leads the team in rushing with 371 rushing yards on 107 attempts. Freeman was also injured in the win over the Saints.
The Falcons expressed confidence in Brian Hill carrying the load out of the backfield if Freeman is sidelined. Backup Ito Smith was placed on injured reserve following a concussion and neck injury. Then Freeman’s injury thrusted Hill into the spotlight against the Saints.
Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said rookie running back Qadree Ollison could have a role on offense behind Hill if Freeman misses time. Return specialist Kenjon Barner is the other running back in the mix.
Koetter also expressed confidence in tight end Luke Stocker and Jaeden Graham with Hooper hurting, with Graham being more in the Hooper mold as a pass-catching tight end and Stocker known more for his blocking.