Refs flag a devastated Keanu Neal after safety goes down with Achilles injury

Ben WeinribYahoo Sports Contributor

Atlanta Falcons safety Keanu Neal went down with a devastating left Achilles injury in Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts, and the referees piled onto his misery by flagging him on the play.

Facing first and goal from the Falcons’ 9 yard line, Neal crumpled to the ground with a non-contact injury and was in such visible pain that he removed his helmet while the play was finishing up.

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The refs deemed that to be unsportsmanlike contact, hitting him with a five-yard penalty and giving the Colts an automatic first down. Two plays later, Indy scored a touchdown to go up 20-3.

Worse yet, Neal likely faces a fine for taking off his helmet. Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs was slapped with a $10,527 fine on Saturday for removing his helmet and taunting the crowd last week.

Falcons safety Keanu Neal is helped off the field after suffering an Achilles injury. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
Falcons safety Keanu Neal is helped off the field after suffering an Achilles injury. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

Neal had to be carted off after the play, and the broadcast confirmed that the injury was to his Achilles tendon, which ruled him out for the game and could cost him the rest of the season. That would be particularly devastating considering he missed 15 games last season after tearing his ACL in the opening contest.

After the game, NFL Network cited a source who said the team believes Neal indeed tore his Achilles, with an MRI still to come.

“The man just keeps fighting,” Falcons safety Ricardo Allen, who missed most of last season with a torn Achilles, said after the game. “I don’t really know the full thing, but in his eyes it didn’t look good. he understands the grind. He was with me last year, and I was with him last year. We understand what it takes to get back.”

A 2016 first-rounder, Neal was a Pro Bowler in 2017 when he finished second on the team with 113 tackles while adding an interception, three forced fumbles and two recoveries.

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