Danny Etling, under the watchful eye of quarterback coach Greg Knapp, took a shotgun snap in the end zone near the hill.
Etling gathered in the snap and shot a dart about 20 yards out to the right to cornerback Desmond Trufant, who’d stayed around after practice to catch passes from the newcomer.
For Etling, who was claimed off waivers Wednesday from New England, it marked his return to the quarterback position and a chance to revive his career in the National Football League after a failed move to wide receiver.
“Yeah, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help the team,” said Etling, who was drafted in the seventh round of the 2018 draft after playing at Purdue and LSU. “I’m extremely excited to have the opportunity to play quarterback again.”
Quarterback Kurt Benkert went on injured reserved with a toe injury.
“We thought he could create on the run,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “He can get out of the pocket and move. So with Kurt’s injury we thought it was certainly worthwhile to bring another player in to see what it looks like.”
The clock is ticking for Etling. He has two weeks to make an impression.
“That’s what we’ll kind of do for the two weeks to see if this is somebody in our minds (worth) developing with what we want to do,” Quinn said.
Etling was on New England’s practice squad last season behind Tom Brady and Brian Hoyer. When the Patriots selected former Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham in the fourth round, they moved Etling to wide receiver.
He was not going to be the next Julian Edelman, a college quarterback who converted to wide receiver and is the reigning Super Bowl MVP.
The Patriots, apparently happy with Stidham, released Etling and the Falcons claimed him off waivers.
“It happened pretty quickly,” Etling said. “It’s been a quick turnaround. Basically, I hopped on a plane and the next thing you know, you’re in Georgia on a sideline trying to figure everything out. You are just trying to get a feel for the offense. A feel for a new team. I’m extremely blessed to have this opportunity.”
Etling is looking forward to returning to his signal-calling roots.
“I will just continue to progress and try to get back the feel of things,” Etling said. “Learning a new offense and trying to pick it up as quickly as I can.”
“Just one day at a time,” Etling said when asked if he could be ready to play against the Redskins. “Keep progressing and working really hard.”
He’s not sure how long it will take him to learn the Falcons’ playbook.
“It’s your job,” Etling said. “You’re expected to come in and learn it and have the right attitude and mindset. It is different. You’ve been running a certain offense for a year and a half now.
“So, you have to forget certain things and bring over certain things. But as I continue to keep getting more and more comfortable, I’m going to just keep trying to fit into this offense. I have to continue to try to figure out all of the little details.”
Etling, of Terra Haute, Ind., started his college career at Purdue. He played for the Boilermakers in 2013 and 2014. He went to LSU, but had to sit out the 2015 season per NCAA rules.
He won the starting job in 2016 and 2017.
Over his collegiate career, Etling completed 563 of 973 passes (57.8 percent) for 7, 076 yards, 43 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.
The Falcons have been following Etling since he threw to wide receiver Russell Gage during his pre-draft workout.
“I definitely remember that workout,” Etling said. “It was one of the coolest workouts that I had. The first thing that struck me was how close knit the coaching staff was. It almost felt like it was a family coming down to just scout out some more people to join their family.”
Etling reflected on his career.
“Went up to Purdue and played for two years there,” Etling said. “Just had a little bit of a disagreement, so I went down to Baton Rouge. I transferred there. I had to sit out one year. I had to have faith in my ability that I could go in there and take that job.
“I was able to win the starting job at LSU for two years. I was drafted in the seventh round by the Patriots. I had a good year there. Learned a lot and now I’m getting a new opportunity here.”
What did Etling pick up from his time with Brady and, to a lesser degree, Hoyer.
“Just a lot of different things,” Etling said. “Learning how to be a pro. A lot of different things that were very specific to that offense, but as you learn to prepare and try and continue to progress as a player, those were two guys and two great veterans to learn from.
“I’ve been blessed with two more great veterans in a different system. I’m going to try and take advantage of that and learn as much as I can.”
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