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NFL's Top Punt Returner Suffers Season-Ending Knee Injury During Practice

By Milo Taibi,


A key member of the Atlanta Falcons suffered disheartening news today.

Avery Williams, a third-year kick return specialist, saw his season end before it even began. The Boise State product suffered a torn ACL at practice last week, which coach Arthur Smith confirmed would require season-ending surgery.

"Because of the player that Avery is I wholeheartedly believe that he'll come back better and improved. It is unfortunate," the coach said of Williams.

"Unfortunate" may be a slight understatement when it comes to Williams. The 24-year-old entered the league with little fanfare as a fifth-round 2021 draft pick.

From that time, however, Avery had carved a critical role for himself on Atlanta's special teams. Williams has averaged 20.6 yards per kick return over his two seasons in the league and posted 16.2 yards per punt return last year.

While news of Williams' injury is still fresh, Arthur Smith identified a couple of Falcons who could step up in Avery's stead.

"Falcons coach Arthur Smith quickly said Mike Hughes, Josh Ali and possibly Penny Hart as punt return replacements. I missed one of the other names. Avery Williams have surgery tomorrow on his ACL," reporter D. Orlando Ledbetter tweeted.

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