Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff expressed confidence Tuesday that three-time Pro Bowl running back Todd Gurley will pass the team's pending physical despite well-documented concerns about the health of Gurley's left knee.
Gurley, the 2017 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, who was released by the Los Angeles Rams on March 19, faced lingering questions about his knee as his time with the Rams came to a close. The Rams' brass never confirmed a report about the 25-year-old Gurley having arthritis in the knee, which was surgically repaired in 2014.
"We looked closely at it," Dimitroff said of Gurley's health. "We have language in our contracts that are going to protect us and the player. If the player comes in and has an issue that he might not pass a physical, then that's something that we'll address then. We're not looking at it that way [of Gurley possibly failing the physical]. In our mind, we're thinking about Todd Gurley coming in ... he really takes care of his body well and he'll continue to work on it.
"We'll continue to be very mindful about what we are dealing with. We feel very comfortable with it. Of course, this is a tough game and it's a warrior game. We know that. ... But he's a hard-charging runner. And he's an excellent football player. We are counting on him to be an excellent football player for us."
Gurley, who signed a four-year, $60 million ($45 million guaranteed) extension with the Rams before the 2018 season, officially agreed to terms on a one-year, $6 million contract with the Falcons, although the deal is still pending the physical. The new league rules closing down facilities as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak have prevented players such as Gurley from taking physicals with their new teams. There is no set date for when Gurley will take his physical with the Falcons. All the Falcons' incoming free agents will have their physicals completed by the team physicians at the appropriate time, according to the team. That means independent physicians will not be involved.
When pressed on whether Gurley would pass the physical, Dimitroff stood firm.
"On the contract as far as the confidence level in passing the physical, I feel good about that," Dimitroff said. "Of course, we have to be particular about it. We look at it very closely, and I feel good about that.
"As far as him contributing to our team if and when -- which I'm going to say 'when' he passes our physical -- I think he's going to do a very good job contributing to this offense. Thinking about all the skills that he brings to the table for us, not only as a runner but as a guy that can catch ball, again we are very encouraged by what we think he can add to us."
The Falcons added Gurley after releasing two-time Pro Bowl running back Devonta Freeman. The team's current group of running backs includes Gurley, Ito Smith, Qadree Ollison and Brian Hill, who was extended a one-year, $2.133 million tender as a restricted free agent.
Gurley's body of work includes 5,404 career rushing yards and 58 rushing touchdowns on 1,265 carries, along with 12 touchdown receptions. Some view him now as the ideal red zone and short-yardage back in a Falcons offense that features one-time MVP Matt Ryan, all-decade wide receiver Julio Jones and fast-rising receiver Calvin Ridley.
The Falcons finished last season 30th out of 32 teams in rushing with an average of 85.1 rushing yards per game. Dimitroff said during the combine that the team was looking to add a big-play, speed running back to the mix. Although he believes in Gurley's explosiveness, Dimitroff didn't rule out adding another back to the mix.
"I think Todd is explosive; I think Todd can still tote the rock very, very well and he's going to be a big-time playmaker," Dimitroff said. "I think we have a group of running backs that can contribute. I'm a big believer that it's not just about one person running all the runs, of course. We're a big mix-up team. We think that's a very important part of making sure that we rotate our guys through there.
"It's not meaning that we won't look for another back in the draft that potentially has speed. That's something we'll continue to look at. But we feel really good about the group of running backs we have, with Todd Gurley at the front of the line."