In short order, ‘super dad’ Kirk Cousins has won over Falcons

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Kirk Cousins throws a pass during an NFL football practice Monday, June 3, 2024, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Kirk Cousins throws a pass during an NFL football practice Monday, June 3, 2024, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

FLOWERY BRANCH — He’s 35 and likes Legos, quoting movies and frequenting chain restaurants.

Falcons fans, this is your quarterback.

Your knowledge of Kirk Cousins may not run deep. Main points might include that he used to play for the Vikings, he signed a free-agent deal that includes $100 million guaranteed, he is coming back from a torn Achilles and the Falcons drafted his successor (Michael Penix Jr.) with the No. 8 overall pick six weeks after they signed him.

There is more, though, and there’s a lot to like. He’s doing the right things at this stage of the offseason and has become a clear leader of the locker room. His play in offseason workouts and his habits have won his teammates’ confidence.

In an offensive meeting on the second day of organized team activities, he gave teammates a lengthy presentation about the cadence he uses at the line of scrimmage to initiate the snap.

“You can just tell he’s a guy that’s asked every question and is expecting everything and he’s on top of it,” left tackle Jake Matthews said Monday after an OTA workout that was open to media.

On the first day of OTAs, safety Richie Grant said, the defense got the better of Cousins and the offense.

“He came out that next day, he was dotting it up,” Grant said, using the (relatively) new jargon for throwing pinpoint passes. “He’s definitely got it up top. He’s a smart guy.”

Running back Bijan Robinson has been excited by his new quarterback’s attention to detail and his ability to make tight throws. (Among other routines, Cousins draws up every play by hand that the offense installs as a way of absorbing it.) The conversations they’ve had where Cousins has encouraged him to run his routes in a certain way to help him get open have fired him up.

“Really listening to him and really just taking all the information and feedback that he has for me, I take that serious and I really appreciate him for that,” Robinson said.

At the start of OTA workouts, when the offense was rehearsing plays full speed, “when I saw him give me the ball in different ways, I was like, ‘Man, this dude, he’s legit,’” Robinson said.

Beyond that, Cousins has made a point to meet and get to know teammates. At the start of OTA’s, he made an impression on Matthews by joining the offensive linemen’s table at breakfast and introducing himself.

“It was really just right then – ‘Hey, I like this guy. He fits in real well,’” Matthews said.

Cousins’ efforts to connect with the line included a scheduled meal at a Texas Roadhouse.

“We’re kind of checking off these chain restaurants – RIP Red Lobster,” he said, paying homage to the bankrupt seafood chain.

Another plan to develop bonds with the offensive linemen is to invite them over to watch the 1995 comedy “Heavyweights.” If you haven’t seen it, you’re like most of Cousins’ teammates and also most people who weren’t pre-adolescent boys in 1995. About a weight-loss camp run amok and starring Ben Stiller, it is one of the movies that Cousins likes to quote to his teammates, mostly to no effect.

“And then I’ll get a laugh from way over on the other side of the locker room from Jake Matthews because he knows the reference,” Cousins said.

One particular line that has particular meaning – “I know you because I was you.” He repeats this to younger teammates often as he tries to share the wisdom gained from 12 years in the NFL.

That includes Robinson, Cousins’ locker-room neighbor.

“I love that dude, man,” Robinson said.

Turning 36 in August, Cousins is the oldest player on the roster by three years. He embraces the age gap. On Monday in the locker room, he said, he introduced a method he uses to illustrate differences in age – finding out how old someone was at the time of the 9/11 attacks in 2001. (Cousins is someone who likes to ask people questions.)

Quarterback Taylor Heinicke was 8, in fourth grade, which caught running back Tyler Allgeier by surprise, as the third-year player was 1 year old. Cousins then dropped a heavy dose of reality on Allgeier, telling him he was in seventh grade.

“And Bijan wasn’t born yet, and so that was a little bit of a ‘wow,’” Cousins said.

Building connections clearly is important to him. In early May, Cousins rounded up tight end Kyle Pitts and wide receivers Drake London and Darnell Mooney and took them to Florida to learn from former NFL coach Jon Gruden and his vault of game and practice video.

There is reason why Pitts referred to Cousins as “super dad.”

The dad vibes run strong with Cousins, an actual father of two boys (Cooper, 6, and Turner, 5) with his wife, Julie. In a moment of despondence following his Achilles tear last season with the Vikings, Cousins set his sons loose on a shopping spree at the Lego store in the Mall of America (a perk of making $35 million last season), he said on an appearance in May on the “Bussin’ with the Boys” podcast.

Together, they put together sets of the Concorde airplane, the space shuttle, the house from “Home Alone” and James Bond’s Aston Martin.

Said Cousins of his Lego zeal, “I love to build and create, and I also love following instructions.”

Now all the four-time Pro Bowler has to do is complete a lot of passes, win games and lead the Falcons to their first playoff berth since the 2017 season. His rehab from his torn Achilles is progressing well. He said that “I feel that I’ve gotten every rep there was to get in these OTA’s, and I think that’s been a huge win for building that continuity that we talk about.” He would like to play in the exhibition games if possible.

It all seems to be trending in the right direction. Of course, optimism is easy to find in the NFL in June. Twelve months ago, Falcons fans were cautiously optimistic about the possibility of Desmond Ridder being the solution to run coach Arthur Smith’s offense, a most quaint notion today.

The Achilles and his aging body will have to stay healthy. A Falcons defense that has some holes will have to hold its own. A coaching staff that is almost entirely new will have to show its worth.

But before the cauldron of training camp, to say nothing of the regular season, hope flourishes with a Lego-loving, detail-minded super dad.

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Kirk Cousins (18) jokes with a teammate during an NFL football pratice Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

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Credit: AP

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Kirk Cousins (18) talks with tight end Kyle Pitts (8) during minicamp at the Atlanta Falcons Training Camp, Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com