Terrell, Hayward looking forward to working with Bates

Falcons cornerbacks A.J. Terrell and Casey Hayward are elated that safety Jessie Bates signed with the team in free agency.

About a month before free agency started, Terrell, Hayward and tight end Kyle Pitts went to dinner with Bates in Atlanta.

“We are definitely real happy to have Jessie on board,” Terrell told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution at the “A.J. Terrell Relays” at Westlake High on Saturday. “I can’t wait to see what comes with it. I know that he had a good run with Cincinnati and I’m happy that he’s going to be with me in the A now. I can’t wait to get to work with him.”

Bates, who was named second-team All-Pro after the 2020 season, signed a four-year $64 million contract with the Falcons on Wednesday.

Terrell is looking forward to working with new defensive coordinator Ryan Neilsen.

“I’m behind 100 percent of what we’ve got going on,” Terrell said. “I’m just ready to get to work. To get in the playbook, go out and practice, put things in motion.”

How will Bates make the secondary better?

“All around,” Terrell said. “He’s got all of the accolades. He’s got the experience and adds more depth to the secondary. He’s somebody that I can just learn from and play with. I’m happy.”

Bates helped the Bengals reach the Super Bowl in his fourth season. He played last season on the franchise tag.

“It’s just big for us,” Terrell said. “It’s a great addition. A lot of experience … comes with Jessie . Being able to pick his brain, play alongside him in the secondary is huge for us.”

Hayward is recovering from pectoral surgery which he suffered last season after starting six games.

“I’m doing good,” Hayward said. “I’m getting a lot better. Hopefully, by OTAs and camp, I’ll be 100 percent. I’m getting there. Everything is going in the right direction.”

Hayward felt he was off to a strong start until the injury derailed his season.

“At the time, I thought I was playing some solid ball,” Hayward said. “I was playing some good ball at the time. Obviously, it’s a new year. So far the team is doing a good job in free agency signing some key pieces. Hopefully, as a team and as a defense we can be a lot better than what we were.

“We’ve got a new (defensive coordinator) and a lot of new things going on. Hopefully, those things turn out and go in the right direction for us.”

Hayward also believes that adding Bates will elevate the defense.

“Yeah, Jessie that’s my guy,” Hayward said. “Before he signed, we probably (saw) him a month before that. We were definitely trying to recruit him. It worked. So, we’re happy to have him here. He’s one of the top safeties in this league, to have him on your team, it’s going to make your team and your defense a lot better.”

Cornerback Dee Alford and safety Jovante Moffatt, who had his season cut short with a calf injury, was also on hand to support Terrell.

“I just had a minor setback at the end of the season, but right now I’m just preparing to get healthy and doing what I need to do as far as conditioning,” Moffatt said. “I just want to make sure that I come into the season to do what I need to do for the team, helping us be successful.”

Moffatt played in three games last season before going on injured reserve with two games to play. He’s also looking forward to working with Bates.

“I honestly feel like it’s going to be really good to have another vet in the room with Casey,” Moffatt said. “The more knowledge in the room, it can only help the other guys. I think it’s going to be very beneficial for the whole room and the team as well.”

Bates, who spoke to the Atlanta media virtually on Friday, is looking forward to joining his new teammates.

I just turned 26,” Bates said. “Being able to have the experience that I have and be able to elevate the room. I think we already have some really good players in that room.

“I remember when I was going into my year three, just out there playing football, playing some good football, but there’s always another level that you can tap into. Hopefully, I’ll be able to bring that out of Richie (Grant), AJ and those guys and they’ll do the same for me.”

Bates doesn’t plan to be a bashful leader.

“It’s very exciting to be here,” Bates said. “My role is going to be a leader. Someone that has experienced (the) postseason. Has experienced the bad. Has experienced the good. So, I’ve had a little bit of it all. Just five years into it. … I’ll have a lot of wisdom and stuff to talk about to the guys in the locker room.”

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