Smith on cutting Mayfield: ‘We’ve got to do what’s best for this team’

FLOWERY BRANCH – Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot and coach Arthur Smith are in the process of cutting the roster down to 53 players by the 4 p.m. Tuesday deadline.

The Falcons cut four players, including former starting left guard Jalen Mayfield, on Saturday. They also cut defensive lineman Justin Kelly, Delontae Scott and cornerback Bless Austin.

Mayfield, who’s 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds, was drafted in the third round (68th overall) of the 2021 NFL draft. He started as a rookie at left guard, before spending all of last season on injured reserve with a back ailment.

He played right tackle at Michigan and was moved back to right tackle for training camp. He also received some action at left tackle. But his bid to win the backup swing tackle spot was unsuccessful.

Smith was asked about the rationale behind Mayfield’s release.

“With all the moves that we’ve made, you’ve got to do what’s best for the team,” Smith said on Sunday. “You give everybody opportunities. It doesn’t mean that guys can’t go other places and have great careers, but we’ve got to do what’s best for this team. That’s what guides us. We try to be fair and objective.”

The Falcons have one more practice on Monday night before cutting down.

“So, then obviously, Tuesday, we’ll have to make a lot of roster transactions,” Smith said. “So, it will be kind of a hectic 48 hours.”

The Falcons make it a practice of speaking face-to-face with the players who are being cut.

“We certainly don’t take it lightly because we’ve had a lot of guys that have really worked hard and guys who have competed hard,” Smith said. “Again, we’ll get one more practice in (Monday) night. Obviously, Tuesday will be a big day and then we’ll finish the week with two more practices.”

The Falcons went 1-1-1 in the exhibition season and sparingly played their starters. The Falcons will open the regular season against the Carolina Panthers at 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 10 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The roster decisions have been a part of a on-going process.

“Yes, we go through it,” Smith said. “We go through it all the time. We talk all day, every day, Terry and I do. We have meetings and a collaborative staff. We’re trying to make the best decisions for this team.”

Smith didn’t anticipate any more moves until the Tuesday morning.

Ridder Ready: Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder played just 17 offensive snaps during the exhibition season. Is that enough to get the starter ready for the regular season?

“Oh yeah, I’m OK,” Ridder said about the 17 snaps. “Like I’ve said, multiple times, we work so hard during practice that when we get out there in the game it’s almost like the same thing. So, going out there practicing against our defense, which is a really great defense, prepares us as much, if not anything, as a game.”

Ridder, as a rookie, played 121 snaps during the exhibition season in 2022.

He started the final four games of the season and played 271 of 275 offensive snaps while posting a 2-2 record. Logan Woodside played four snaps in the regular-season finale against Tampa Bay.

“You can’t say practice is more important than the (exhibition) games, but they are as equally as important,” Ridder said. “Practice, for us, like I said, we try to make it as game-like as possible with the speed and the intensity (and) with the pressure so that when we do get into games, it makes everyone’s nerves kind of ease and kind of calm (down) because we’ve been there before.”

Robinson ready, too: Rookie running back Bijan Robinson, who played 12 exhibition game snaps, believes he’s prepared for the regular season.

“I’m ready to go,” Robinson said. “I got my feet wet a little bit. That was good for me. Now, that I know the season is coming and just get ready for a full games. Getting my mind right for four quarters.”

Practice report: Cornerback Mike Hughes, cornerback Cornell Armstrong, running back Cordarrelle Patterson, tight end Kyle Pitts, guard Chris Lindstrom, wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge (ankle) and wide receiver Penny Hart (concussion) were not at practice on Sunday.

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