Rex Grossman, who turned 35 on Sunday, was staying in shape by throwing passes to high school receivers in Delray Beach, Fla.
The Falcons, looking for more competition at the backup quarterback position, called him at 7:30 p.m. Monday and wanted to fly him up that night.
Grossman, who wasn’t near his house, had to clear his schedule and flew to Atlanta on Tuesday for a physical and workout. The Falcons liked what they saw and signed him to a one-year, $1 million, veteran minimum contract Wednesday morning.
“I’m just trying to figure out how I can help this team, no matter what it is,” said Grossman, who hasn’t thrown a pass in an NFL game since the 2011 season. “Just be a positive influence on the team. Compete, one. That’s the first step.
“Then if needed, in any situation, be able to step in and play well.”
Grossman made a good impression on Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones during the closed portion of practice.
“I caught a few balls from him early on,” Jones said. “He can spin it pretty good.”
Grossman stayed after practice to throw passes under the direction of quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur, with coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff looking on from afar. He will not play against the Dolphins on Saturday, in the Falcons’ third exhibition game.
“I can play right now,” Grossman said. “I’m ready to roll. But I think the plan is to play in the fourth game. So, that’s what I’ll do. That’s my role. I’ll be ready to roll.”
After the Jets lost Geno Smith to a broken jaw in a fight with a teammate, team officials contacted Grossman. He reportedly turned down an offer from the Jets because he wanted to reunite with Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. He played for Shanahan in Houston, Washington and Cleveland last season before being released.
The Falcons originally were not interested because they were pleased with T.J. Yates and Sean Renfree. But after both struggled against the New York Jets’ reserves in the Friday exhibition game, the team had a change of heart.
Grossman was drafted 22nd overall by the Chicago Bears in the 2003 draft. He has started 47 games over his career and helped the Bears reach Super Bowl XLI, where they defeated 29-17 by the Indianapolis Colts.
Falcons starting quarterback Matt Ryan hasn’t missed a game since the 2009 season and his streak of 87 starts in a row is the fifth-longest among active quarterbacks, despite playing under severe duress the past two seasons.
Over his career, Grossman has completed 863 of 1,562 passes (55.2 percent) for 1,562 yards, 56 touchdowns and 60 interceptions.
During the workout, Grossman threw passes to wide receivers Marquez Clark and John Harris.
Quinn would not say that Grossman’s signing signaled any displeasure with Yates and Renfree.
“It’s all for competition,” Quinn said. “We are going to constantly keep looking to battle and see where we can improve if we can.”
The Falcons now have four quarterbacks on the roster and must decide if they are going to carry three or two into the season. Last season they carried three quarterbacks to open the season, as 15 other teams did.
The Falcons are still working through their quarterback plan, which essentially pits Grossman against Yates, a four-year veteran, who played at Pope High and starred at North Carolina. Renfree, a second-year veteran, still has practice-squad eligibility.
“There are all sorts of challenges,” Quinn said. “You can go with two or three. Practice squad and how do you factor that in? Honestly, we’re just right in the middle of it with the backup spots.”