Falcons’ Kyle Pitts humble, grateful that team picked up his fifth-year option

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Kirk Cousins (18) talks with tight end Kyle Pitts (8) during minicamp at the Atlanta Falcons Training Camp, Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Kirk Cousins (18) talks with tight end Kyle Pitts (8) during minicamp at the Atlanta Falcons Training Camp, Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (Jason Getz / AJC)

FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts was humbled by last season as he tried to bounce back from knee surgery and grateful that the franchise this year picked up his $10.8 million fifth-year option.

“Definitely, it was a blessing for the upstairs people (front office) to still have faith in me,” Pitts said. “I’m trying to show them that I can do something different this year.”

Pitts, who was taken with the fourth pick overall in the 2021 NFL draft, had a fast start to his career and appeared headed for superstardom. He caught 68 passes for 1,026 yards with a touchdown with Matt Ryan throwing to him.

In his second season, he struggled with nagging injuries and poor quarterback play from Marcus Mariota before sustaining a season-ending knee injury in the 10th game. He had surgery to repair medial collateral ligament and posterior cruciate ligament damage in his right knee Nov. 29, 2022 and missed the remainder of the season.

Last season, Pitts, who hadn’t played in a game with quarterback Desmond Ridder, never really came unleashed. He caught 53 passes for 667 and three touchdowns.

“Amazing,” Pitts said about his health. “Everybody likes to feel 1,000 percent and at your normal self.”

Last season was a struggle.

“I would say that it wasn’t so much bad during the game, it was more preparation during the week,” Pitts said. “Dealing with that soreness and tightness just all through the week. Then Sunday was just show day, so you can figure it out of Sunday. But all through the week it was a grind.”

Pitts has a simple goal for this offseason as he’s learning to work with new quarterbacks Kirk Cousins and Michael Penix.

“Just being full-go,” Pitts said. “Being in shape and being as strong as you can. Being able to perform at your highest level.”

Feeling healthy has helped Pitts’ mental approach.

“100 percent, because when if you feel good, you look good,” Pitts said. “Nobody can stop you.”

Pitts is fine with hitting the reset button for his fourth season in the NFL.

“New offense,” Pitts said. “New foundation. A new quarterback. New coaching staff. New offensive coordinator. Everybody just being able to grow and evolve. We’ll see (what) is to come.”

Pitts has been soaking up as much information as he can from Cousins, who helped Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson get to the Pro Bowl in 2022.

“Been around the block, a veteran quarterback,” Pitts said. “It’s great to learn from him. He’s seen a lot of ball. He has a lot to teach. He’s seen different players and different sizes. He can help you win.”

Pitts has respected Cousins’ approach to the offseason and was part of the group that went to study film with former NFL coach Jon Gruden in Tampa.

“He’s very intentional,” Pitts said. “That’s what you get with a vet. They tell you where to be in different coverages, against different players. They tell you how to win. How we can utilize the offense the most and win our matchups.”

Cousins, who signed in free agency, has blended in well with his new teammates.

“The first day, when we started installing,” Pitts said of when Cousins started to exert his influence. “He would just throw in little things. Then we’d start getting more and things, he would tell you, ‘guys, I like this’ or ‘guys, on this play don’t do this.’ So, just different intricacies (to the plays).”

Pitts is trying to approach the offseason like he did after getting drafted.

“I would say I’m a super rookie,” Pitts said. “I’m not a rookie-rookie, but I’m raw in this new regime, new offense and new schedule. So, we’re all in this fresh, but learning a new offense is always fun.”

The Falcons are pulling for Pitts.

“He’s very excited about being healthy, and so are we,” Falcons coach Raheem Morris said. “Getting a healthy Kyle Pitts gives you a really dynamic player that we believe in a lot. Hence, the picking up of his option (and) letting him be a part of our immediate and hopefully our long-term future.”

Pitts was the highest drafted tight end in NFL history. The Falcons are hopeful that Pitts is ready to bounce back. He’s now under contract through the 2025 season. A big season could lead to a lucrative long-term contract.

“If we can get this guy going, we all know what he could be,” Morris said. “That’s the job of the coach, to find out what a player can be and go get the best out of him. Hopefully, myself, along with my staff, and all of our coaches, we can go and get the best version of Kyle Pitts because that will be really good for all of us.”

Cousins is enjoying his work with Pitts.

“Probably the favorite part of the job right now is watching film,” Cousins said. “Routes on air. Having conversations and sending texts to guys like Kyle Pitts, Drake London, (Darnell) Mooney and Rondale (Moore), Bijan (Robinson), Tyler (Allgeier).

“I’m excited to be the point guard, and they are the shooting guards, small forward, power forward and center. I’m just distributing the football, getting the ball out of my hands and into theirs.”

Cousins is enjoying his role and being surrounded by the team’s offensive weapons.

“That’s probably my favorite part of the job right now,” Cousins said. “Is trying to help them get to where they want to go, but know that they are going to need a little help to do that. I can’t wait to be a part of getting them to where they want to go.”

Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts (8) makes a catch during minicamp, Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

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