Oct 30, 2022; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts (8) runs after a catch against the Carolina Panthers during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons TE Kyle Pitts recovering from surgery

Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts is recovering from surgery to repair a torn MCL in his right knee.

Pitts shared a post-operation photo from a hospital bed showing his knee in a brace. The image was on his Instagram story Wednesday.

“Day 1,” read the caption.

The Falcons placed Pitts on injured reserve Monday, one day after taking a hit to the knee in the third quarter of a 27-24 victory against the Chicago Bears.

Pitts, 22, posted 28 receptions for 356 yards and two touchdowns in 10 starts this season.

He made the Pro Bowl as a rookie first-round pick in 2021, catching 68 passes for 1,026 yards and a touchdown in 17 games (15 starts). He joined Mike Ditka as the only rookie tight ends in NFL history to reach 1,000 yards.

–Field Level Media

Oct 23, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith calls a time out in the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paycor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Arthur Smith: Falcons will miss Kyle Pitts’ ‘enormous’ impact after IR move

After Sunday’s thrilling 27-24 win over the Chicago Bears, the Atlanta Falcons are surprisingly just a half-game out of first place in the NFC South and in position to make a run at winning the division.

But any optimism surrounding the Falcons (5-6) in Arthur Smith’s second season as coach was overshadowed Monday by knee injuries to tight end Kyle Pitts and defensive end Ta’Quon Graham, who were placed on injured reserve.

Pitts, who plays a valuable role in Atlanta’s offense with his unique skill set as a receiver and blocker, injured his right knee Sunday. Though the Falcons have not confirmed the severity of the injury, NFL Network reported that the team believes he suffered a torn MCL.

“I did not go to medical school so I listen to the experts,” Smith said Monday, before Pitts’ move to IR. “Obviously it’s important with a player of Kyle’s caliber, and I understand why it’s newsworthy and people want to know, but I, not trying to be evasive, let the guys who are medical experts handle it.”

Graham, the team’s starting left end, also suffered a knee injury Sunday and had to be carted off the field. Both Pitts and Graham will have to miss at least four games before returning from IR.

The injury to Pitts put the Falcons behind the eight-ball against the Bears with fellow tight ends Feleipe Franks and Anthony Firkser inactive. MyCole Pruitt and Parker Hesse saw increased action as a result of Pitts being out. But the loss of Pitts for any period of time is a major blow to Atlanta’s offense.

Pitts has 28 receptions for 356 yards and two touchdowns over 10 games. He was a Pro Bowler as a rookie in 2021, with 68 receptions for 1,026 yards and one touchdown.

“I know the stats aren’t as gaudy as his rookie season but his impact on winning has been enormous for us,” Smith said. “I know at times we haven’t been in sync with the way we’ve had to play, and you are going to sacrifice some passing numbers. But the guy’s a great teammate. He doesn’t pout like a lot of guys with that kind of hype. But he’s a real person and that’s why we love him. And the future is really bright for him.”

Graham, a stout run defender, has 34 tackles and a fumble recovery this season.

This week, Atlanta travels to take on the red-hot Washington Commanders in a critical game that could help determine a playoff spot. Washington (6-5) has won two in a row and five of its last six games.

Taylor Heinicke replaced Carson Wentz at quarterback and improved to 4-1 as the team’s starter this year following the Commanders’ 23-10 win over Houston. He also led Washington to a 32-21 upset of previously undefeated Philadelphia on Nov. 14.

The play of Heinicke, along with a resurgent rushing attack led by Antonio Gibson and Brian Robinson, has been critical to Washington’s recent success.

Another key has been the play of the Commanders’ defensive line. Despite playing without star defensive end Chase Young due to a torn ACL he suffered last season, Washington has 29 sacks through 11 games, tied for 10th in the league.

Young was activated to Washington’s 53-man roster Monday and could make his season debut against Atlanta. The Falcons’ offensive line is playing well, but it will face a major challenge against a rugged Commanders front which features Daron Payne (6.5 sacks), Jonathan Allen (6.5 sacks) and Montez Sweat (6.0 sacks).

–Field Level Media

Oct 30, 2022; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts (8) runs after a catch against the Carolina Panthers during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Falcons fear MCL sprain for TE Kyle Pitts

Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts will have an MRI Monday to confirm the initial diagnosis of an MCL sprain, NFL Network reported.

Pitts took a hit to his right knee early in the third quarter of Sunday’s 27-24 victory against the visiting Chicago Bears. He had three catches for 43 yards before exiting.

Pitts, 22, has 28 receptions for 356 yards and two touchdowns through 10 starts this season.

He made the Pro Bowl as a rookie first-round pick in 2021, catching 68 passes for 1,026 yards and a touchdown in 17 games (15 starts). He joined Mike Ditka as the only rookie tight ends in NFL history to reach 1,000 yards.

–Field Level Media

Sep 25, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts (8) runs for yards after the catch against the Seattle Seahawks during the first quarter at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons TE Kyle Pitts (hamstring) questionable vs. 49ers

Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts is listed as questionable to play in Sunday’s game against the visiting San Francisco 49ers.

Pitts was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday and Thursday while nursing a hamstring injury. He sat out the first game of his career in Atlanta’s 21-15 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday.

Pitts, 22, has 10 catches for 150 yards for the Falcons (2-3), who will turn to Parker Hesse and Anthony Firkser should he be unable to play against the 49ers (3-2).

Pitts has 78 receptions for 1,176 yards and one touchdown in 21 career games since being selected by Atlanta with the fourth overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.

Falcons left guard Elijah Wilkinson (knee) and edge rusher Ade Ogundeji (shoulder) are questionable for Sunday’s game, while linebacker Mykal Walker (groin) has been ruled out.

–Field Level Media

Aug 1, 2022; Flowery Branch, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts (8) catches a pass during training camp at IBM Performance Field. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons TE Kyle Pitts (hamstring) out vs. Bucs

Tight end Kyle Pitts will miss the first game of his NFL career on Sunday when the Atlanta Falcons visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Pitts, a former first-round pick, has not participated in practice all week while dealing with a hamstring injury. The Falcons officially ruled him out on Friday.

Pitts has 10 catches for 150 yards in four games this season for the Falcons (2-2), who will turn to Parker Hesse and Anthony Firkser to handle the positional duties.

Pitts has 78 receptions for 1,176 yards and one touchdown in 21 career games since being selected by Atlanta with the fourth overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.

–Field Level Media

Aug 27, 2022; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts (8) shown on the bench during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Arthur Smith on Kyle Pitts’ lack of targets: ‘Not fantasy football’

For the second week in a row to start the season, the Atlanta Falcons lost.

And for the second week in a row, Kyle Pitts’ line in the box score read two receptions for 19 yards.

The fourth overall pick in the 2021 draft has gotten off to a disappointing start, though it’s not for a lack of trying. Atlanta only targeted Pitts three times in Sunday’s 31-27 loss to the Los Angeles Rams after throwing seven passes his way in Week 1.

Pitts was seen as a pass-catching phenom coming out of Florida and was the highest-drafted tight end in NFL history. But head coach Arthur Smith snubbed a question about Pitts’ lack of targets to begin the year.

“Kyle is a huge part of our offense,” Smith said. “You just have to take it with context. Other guys made plays.

“It’s not fantasy football. We’re just trying to win. We will continue to look at everything and try to get better.”

Fantasy managers would prefer to see the version of Pitts from 2021, who caught 68 passes (on 110 targets) for 1,026 yards and one touchdown on his way to a Pro Bowl selection.

But after he found early success in the NFL, and opposing coaches and defensive coordinators figure to be doing all they can to nullify Pitts’ impact.

Marcus Mariota instead turned to rookie wide receiver Drake London, also a first-round pick, who hauled in eight catches on 12 targets for 86 yards and a touchdown Sunday.

The Falcons trailed 28-3 early in the third quarter before pushing back with 17 fourth-quarter points to make it close. But Atlanta gained just 261 yards of total offense and was 3-for-10 on third downs.

Atlanta was quiet Monday, other than to announce the signing of practice squad defensive lineman Abdullah Anderson to the active roster.

The Falcons elevated him from the practice squad before the Rams game and he made two tackles on 11 snaps, including one tackle for a loss. That was enough to earn himself a full-time spot on the active roster for now.

Anderson is on his fourth team in four NFL seasons. He saw 10 games over the past three years with the Chicago Bears (2019), Minnesota Vikings (2020) and Green Bay Packers (2021), recording one sack.

–Field Level Media

Dec 26, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts (8) warms-up before their game against the Detroit Lions at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons’ Kyle Pitts first rookie TE since ’61 with 1,000 yards

After 60 years, Mike Ditka finally has some company.

On Sunday, Kyle Pitts of the Atlanta Falcons became just the second rookie tight end in NFL history to tally 1,000 receiving yards in a season.

Pitts, who entered the Week 17 game against the host Buffalo Bills with 949 yards, reached the milestone with a 61-yard reception in the second quarter.

With that play, the 21-year-old Pitts also broke the Atlanta rookie record of 959 receiving yards set by Julio Jones in 2011.

Ditka racked up 1,076 yards in 14 games for the Chicago Bears in 1961. He finished his Hall of Fame playing career with 5,812 receiving yards and later coached the Bears to a victory in Super Bowl XX.

–Field Level Media

Jun 9, 2021; Flowery Branch, Georgia, USA;  Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts (8) catches a pass during mandatory minicamp at the Atlanta Falcons Training Complex. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons sign No. 4 overall pick TE Kyle Pitts

The Atlanta Falcons signed first-round draft pick Kyle Pitts to a four-year rookie contract on Tuesday.

Pitts will receive a $32.9 million deal with a signing bonus of approximately $21 million, per the NFL Network. The Falcons will also have a fifth-year option on the former Florida tight end, selected with the fourth overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.

The Falcons have signed all nine of their draft picks.

Pitts, 20, recorded 43 receptions for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns in eight games with the Gators last season. The 6-foot-6, 245-pound Pitts earned unanimous first-team All-America honors and the Mackey Award, presented to college football’s most outstanding tight end.

Pitts had 100 catches for 1,492 yards and 18 scores in 32 career games with Florida.

–Field Level Media

Dec 27, 2020; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Atlanta Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst (81) celebrates after scoring during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Falcons won’t pick up TE Hayden Hurst’s option

The Atlanta Falcons won’t pick up the fifth-year option of tight end Hayden Hurst, multiple outlets reported Monday.

Hurst, the No. 25 overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens, will become a free agent after the season. The Falcons acquired Hurst and a fourth-round pick in a trade last March, sending 2020 second- and fifth-round draft picks to the Ravens.

The Falcons selected Florida tight end Kyle Pitts with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2021 draft last week.

Hurst, 27, played in 16 games (nine starts) last season and recorded career highs in receptions (56), yards (571) and touchdowns (six).

In 44 games over three NFL seasons, Hurst has 99 catches for 1,083 yards and nine scores.

Hurst would have earned nearly $5.5 million in 2022 had his option been picked up, per Over the Cap.

–Field Level Media

Nov 28, 2020; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators tight end Kyle Pitts (84) scores a touchdown during a football game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla. Nov. 28, 2020.   Mandatory Credit: Brad McClenny-USA TODAY NETWORK

Florida TE Pitts declares for 2021 NFL Draft

Florida tight end Kyle Pitts declared for the 2021 NFL Draft on Sunday and will not participate in a Gators’ bowl game.

Widely projected as a high first-round pick, the 6-foot-6, 246-pound junior from Philadelphia caught 43 passes for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns in eight games this season for Florida (8-3).

In a lengthy statement posted on social media, Pitts thanks the Florida coaches, support staff and teammates.

“I know it is time for me to move on to the next chapter of my life,” he wrote. “After much prayer and consideration and talking with my family, I will forego my senior season and enter the 2021 NFL Draft and will not be playing in the bowl game. I am eager to pursue my dreams of playing in the NFL, but I will always be a Gator.”

Pitts began the season with eight catches for 170 yards and four touchdowns in a 51-35 win at Ole Miss on Sept. 26. He ended the campaign with seven receptions for 129 yards and a score in the Gators’ 52-46 loss to top-ranked Alabama in Saturday’s SEC championship game.

A semifinalist for the John Mackey Award this season, Pitts finishes his time in Gainesville with 100 receptions for 1,492 yards and 18 touchdowns.

–Field Level Media