Keanu Neal's winding, hurdle-filled NFL journey brought him to a new stop in the offseason: Weight-Loss Central.
It might sound odd for a defensive back to hail weight loss as a massive improvement in how he feels on the field, but after two straight season-ending injuries, taking a bit of the load off -- 13 pounds to be exact -- can't hurt Neal.
"I slimmed down for a reason just so that I can move better," Neal said, via the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "Kind of get back to my rookie weight. So, it's been working out really well. I'm moving around a lot better. I'm moving around like myself. So, I'm excited with where I'm at."
Neal ruptured his Achilles tendon after three games in 2018, which followed an offseason in which he worked tirelessly to return from a torn ACL. His redemption tale came to a screeching halt with the Achilles injury, sending him back to another premature offseason of recovery and rehab, but with that came a reshaping of his frame.
Lighter and healthy for the first time in nearly a year, Neal is tasked with returning to help the Falcons out of irrelevance. Part of accomplishing such a task is simply getting comfortable with playing the sport he's known for so long but hasn't been able to play for some time.
"Recently, I kind of told myself that I'm starting to get my groove back," Neal said. "I'm starting to see things again. A play that I can be faster on. I saw that after the fact. Next time I get that, I can be there. It's all coming back."
The Falcons will hope it comes back in time for the regular season. From there, it'll be about completing a full season. If Neal can stay healthy and return to his pre-ACL injury form -- a level of play that earned him a Pro Bowl selection in 2017 -- it will have made the time away worth it.
"I'm in this space. Everything happens for a reason," Neal said. "Now, it's just putting in the work and trusting in him. I don't really stress about the mental side much. I just put in the work, and all of my faith is in him.
"Whatever happens, happens. It's in his plan."