Falcons’ Kyle Pitts out with hamstring injury

FLOWERY BRANCH -- Falcons Pro Bowl tight end Kyle Pitts (hamstring) was ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers, according to coach Arthur Smith on Friday.

Smith and his coaching staff elected to sit out Pitts in hopes of keeping him healthy in the long term.

“You gotta assess (injuries) as a staff, and I know he’s not at 100 (percent),” Smith said. “A lot of guys in this league aren’t at 100, but we don’t want (his hamstring injury) to become something that lingers. Feel like it was the best move for him.”

Smith also said he can’t pinpoint the exact moment the injury occurred.

Pitts has started all four games this season, and no injury was announced during the 23-20 victory against the Browns on Sunday. Pitts played 34 of 55 offensive snaps for a season-low 62% against the Browns. He caught one of four targets for 15 yards.

Pitts played 84% of the offensive snaps against New Orleans, 93% against the Rams and 67% against the Seahawks. He has caught 10 of 22 targets (45.5%) for 150 yards and no touchdowns.

With Pitts sidelined, the Falcons will turn to Parker Hesse, Anthony Firkser and Feleipe Franks for increased snaps at tight end.

“You’re gonna see the Falcons play their brand of football,” Falcons tight end coach Justin Peelle said of the team’s game plan with Pitts out. “That’s just what we do in the tight end (group). It’s not ‘Kyle does this, and Parker does this.’ No, we play hard, and that’s what those guys do. We try to be physical, try to be fundamentally sound. (We have) a lot of confidence in whoever’s out there.”

Peelle doesn’t plan to hang his head after Pitts’ injury, not with an important division game against the Buccaneers coming up – the winner will have sole possession of first place in the NFC South. Rather, he said he has to focus on the rest of the group stepping up into their increased roles.

“Nobody likes to hear it, but that’s the mentality (‘next man up’), and that’s the mantra of our team,” Peelle said. “It’s football – injuries happen. You don’t want injuries to happen, but you gotta be ready to play. That’s your job.”

Peelle said he has worked with his tight ends so that each player is ready to shoulder more weight in the Falcons’ offense whenever necessary – as in a time when the starting tight end goes down with an injury.

“With those guys, the way that the (group) prepares and the way that they have worked this year, It’s been fun to see,” Peelle said. “I’m confident putting anybody out there on the field.”

No matter who the Falcons put on the field at tight end, Peelle suggested that the offense will remain as it has operated throughout the season.

“In our offense, it’s not designed to go to any one (player or position),” Peelle said. “We’re not trying to get Kyle (or anybody else) 15 catches, we’re trying to win the game. So, there are times where it happens, and there are times where it doesn’t.”

Out of the three, Hesse has received the most snaps this season, playing in 72% of the offensive snaps this season (179 of 248). Firkser trails behind him with 14% (35 of 248).

However, the wild card of the three is Franks, who recently transitioned from quarterback to tight end. Franks, in his second season in the NFL, hasn’t seen much time on the field this season. He has played in only six snaps (2%).