FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota was placed on injured reserve Wednesday. He will have knee surgery next week, coach Arthur Smith said.
Mariota wanted to get a chronic knee situation evaluated after he was told during last week’s bye he would not be the starter. Logan Woodside was signed Saturday in anticipation of the move to back up the new starter, rookie Desmond Ridder.
“I would anticipate that, yeah, and that had nothing to do with the move here, but there have been a lot of athletes with something chronic. Nothing that’s been an issue this season, but that’s their prerogative,” Smith said.
Smith was not sure the extent of the knee injury.
“We just know when it’s scheduled, and we’ll put him on IR (on Wednesday),” Smith said. The Falcons made the official announcement of the roster move Wednesday afternoon.
It would have helped the Falcons for Mariota, who’s under a two-year contract, to help Ridder through rough patches in practice and games. Mariota was listed as the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart released by the team. The Falcons took steps to move on if Mariota elects to stay away from the team.
“That’s why we’ve signed Logan here on Saturday to make sure that we had depth there,” Smith said. “Once that decision has been made, I’ll update you, but he’s not here right now for full transparency.”
Mariota, who started 13 games, has never been listed on the injury report with a knee injury.
“I’m not a medical expert. I’m just telling you that it had nothing to do with the decision (to change quarterbacks), and we’ll just see how the week plays out,” Smith said.
Ridder and Mariota were informed last Thursday of the team’s decision.
“It’s been a progression with him,” Falcons quarterbacks coach Charles London said of Ridder. “We’ve had a development plan for him. We’ve seen a lot of growth from him through the season and particularly through the last month. Mentally, physically and understanding what we are trying to get accomplished as an offense. We’re excited to move forward with him.”
Ridder had great command of the offense during Wednesday’s walk-through, according to receivers coach T.J. Yates.
“So, you know, we just had a really first walk-through with him,” Yates said. “He didn’t skip a beat. You just roll right with the next guy, and he’s been ready for the challenge all year long. So, we’re all excited for him and want to see him play.”
Smith said this is a different situation from when Mariota was benched during the 2019 season with the Titans.
“Well, I’m in a different role, obviously, Mike Vrabel was the head coach then, and that’s a head coach’s decision,” Smith said. “I was a coordinator, so it was a lot different this time around – a completely different set of circumstances.”
High-profile quarterback decisions can be difficult if the coach doesn’t have the support of the locker room.
“Obviously, aware of that as well, but you try to be truthful, and whether they agree or not, those are conversations that you have to have,” Smith said. “That’s what we did, and we had it in person Thursday morning.”
The Falcons are not sure when or if Mariota will return to the team.
“I do not. I’m just giving you the information that I’ve got, and I was putting in context on why we made the move with Logan,” Smith said. “Also, putting in context, making the move with Des (Ridder) had nothing to do with that.”
The Falcons won’t have the veteran Mariota around to help the rookie through some tough times.
“Of course, you want all your guys to be here, but guys got to make decisions based on the best interest, that’s a part of professional sports, you see it happen all over the place, and you got to have plans and contingency plans,” Smith said. “If the contingency plan was to get Logan in here, somebody that I’m very familiar with, that’s been in Tennessee, and if Logan’s job on Sunday is to be the backup, I’ll have a clear picture when we talk again to be able to give you the ‘Hey, this is definitely what’s happening and what’s not.’
“At least having Logan in here gives us another option, you got Feleipe (Franks) as well, but to feel more comfortable, you got to have contingency plans.”
Smith was not sure Monday if Mariota would be back this season.
“I can’t answer that right now,” Smith said. “If somebody goes on IR, I wouldn’t anticipate him back, but until that decision has been made and finalized – now we’re just talking hypotheticals, and I’m not trying to be evasive, but I’m just telling you the information as I have it.”
Mariota may have played his last game with the Falcons.
“We appreciate Marcus and everything he did for us this season,” London said. “He was really good for us. I appreciate his work and hope that heals up.”
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Atlanta Falcons 2022 schedule
Sept. 11: Saints 27, Falcons 26
Sept. 18: Rams 31, Falcons 27
Sept. 25 Falcons 27, Seahawks 23
Oct. 2 Falcons 23, Browns 20
Oct. 9 Buccaneers 21, Falcons 15
Oct. 16 Falcons 28, 49ers 14
Oct. 23 Bengals 35, Falcons 17
Oct. 30 Falcons 37, Panthers 34 OT
Nov. 6 Chargers 20, Falcons 17
Nov. 10 Panthers 25, Falcons 15
Nov. 20 Falcons 27, Bears 24
Nov. 27 Commanders 19, Falcons 13
Dec. 4 Steelers 19, Falcons 16
Dec. 18 at New Orleans, 1 p.m.
Dec. 24 at Baltimore, 1 p.m.
Jan. 1 vs. Arizona, 1 p.m.
Jan. 8 vs. Tampa Bay, TBD
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