Dec 13, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley (18) runs the ball against the Los Angeles Chargers during the first half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Falcons WR Calvin Ridley had minor foot surgery

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley had minor foot surgery but should be ready for training camp, NFL Network reported Wednesday.

Ridley, 26, recently had “a little cleanup” procedure with Dr. Robert Anderson in Green Bay, Wis., per the report.

He is not participating in this week’s minicamp. The Falcons are scheduled to report to training camp on July 27.

Ridley enters the 2021 season in the spotlight as quarterback Matt Ryan’s undisputed go-to target following the trade of seven-time Pro Bowl selection Julio Jones to the Tennessee Titans.

With Jones missing seven games last season, Ridley led the Falcons and set career highs with 90 catches for 1,374 yards. He caught nine touchdown passes.

A first-round pick in 2018 (26th overall) out of Alabama, Ridley has 217 catches for 3,061 yards and 26 touchdowns in 44 games (30 starts).

–Field Level Media

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Tajae Sharpe (19) pulls in a first-down catch during the third quarter at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019 in Oakland, Ca.

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Falcons sign WR Tajae Sharpe

The Atlanta Falcons signed wide receiver Tajae Sharpe on Monday, providing a reunion with Falcons head coach Arthur Smith, who served as Sharpe’s offensive coordinator with the Tennessee Titans in 2019.

Sharpe had 92 catches for 1,167 yards and eight touchdowns in 47 games (29 starts) with the Titans from 2016-19, but he did not make a reception in four games last season with the Minnesota Vikings.

The 26-year-old was the Titans’ fifth-round draft pick (No. 140 overall) out of Massachusetts in 2016.

Sharpe provides the Falcons with depth at the wideout position, where Julio Jones has indicated that he is seeking to be traded out of Atlanta.

–Field Level Media

Nov 22, 2018; New Orleans, LA, USA; Atlanta Falcons helmets on the bench during their game against the New Orleans Saints in the first quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons GM adds to No. 4 pick mystery

If the Atlanta Falcons know what direction they are headed with the No. 4 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft on Thursday, they are not about to show their hand.

Offense? Defense? Trade?

All options are being considered, Falcons first-year general manager Terry Fontenot said.

Without a draft-day track record, trying to predict the route Fontenot will go has been a difficult task. He came to the Falcons in January after 17 years with the New Orleans Saints where he went from scout to director of pro scouting into his 2020 role of assistant general manager.

“We’ve gone through the different things that can happen,” Fontenot said Wednesday. “But you never know what is going to happen at that exact moment, but we know the players that we’re talking about.”

Fontenot said he is fairly confident how the first three picks in the draft will go. But he isn’t making it easy to predict pick No. 4.

” … Do we trade back compared to the player we could get at 4, or if we trade back, what would be the value?” he said. “So we have to weigh all those different variables and all those scenarios so we know the players that we’re talking about.”

With longtime quarterback Matt Ryan turning 36 next month and heading into his 14th season, the Falcons are interested in selecting a new face of the franchise soon. Quarterback options like Ohio State’s Justin Fields and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance have been speculated as options Thursday.

But a 4-12 record last season and a last-place finish in the NFC South shows that multiple areas of the roster are in need of improvement.

“When you’re picking at 4, we’re trying to take an impact player,” Fontenot said. “Whether it’s a player that’s going to sit or a player that’s going to play right away, we want to bring in an impact player that fits the culture, that has the right makeup and that we have clear vision for that player.”

A quality quarterback is as impactful as it gets, but the Falcons might decide they aren’t in position to wait for a new signal caller to take over.

“We understand we have to add quarterbacks to the roster,” Fontenot said. “And there’s a lot of good ones and a lot of good options.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 31, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates (2) drops back to pass during the fourth quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons hire T.J. Yates as passing game specialist

The Atlanta Falcons hired former NFL quarterback T.J. Yates as a passing game specialist, the team announced Saturday.

Yates was a fifth-round pick by the Houston Texans in 2011 and spent the 2014 season as a backup with the Falcons.

Yates, 33, retired after the 2017 season, having played in 22 games and starting 10.

The former North Carolina Tar Heels QB was the Texans’ assistant quarterbacks coach in 2020.

He’ll work under new offensive coordinator Dave Ragone and new head coach Arthur Smith.

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA;  Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) throws the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons hire Terry Fontenot as new GM

The Atlanta Falcons on Tuesday hired former New Orleans Saints vice president/assistant general manager of pro personnel Terry Fontenot as their new general manager.

Fontenot, 40, becomes the Falcons’ first Black general manager and replaces Thomas Dimitroff, who was fired along with head coach Dan Quinn in October after the Falcons posted an 0-5 start. Last week, Atlanta hired former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith to replace Quinn. Dimitroff had been the Falcons’ GM since 2008.

“When we started this process, we were focused on finding someone that not only has a track record of identifying key building blocks that result in successful teams, but also someone who focuses on cohesive relationships within the building,” Falcons owner and chairman Arthur M. Blank said in a statement. “We feel very strongly that we’ve found that individual in Terry Fontenot. In his past positions, he has shown the ability to make strong decisions and judgements that result in championship-caliber teams, while also understanding a variety of viewpoints and respecting a collaborative process throughout.”

Fontenot spent 18 years with the Saints, where he began his career as a marketing intern before moving into the scouting department. He held his most recent position for the past year.

“Landing a leader of Terry’s stature, I believe our organization, players, fans and community will have confidence in our approach throughout this process as I am certain Terry will represent them and honor the expectations they have with tremendous passion and dedication to competitive excellence,” added Blank.

“I have found the perfect opportunity for my family’s next steps,” Fontenot said in a statement. “I feel honored and thankful that Arthur Blank and (team president) Rich McKay have given me this privilege and I look forward to working alongside the two of them, Arthur Smith and our entire organization as we strive together to reach our competitive goals and give our fans the performances they deserve. My family and I are thrilled to make our new home in Atlanta and look forward to meeting our fellow Falcon fans.”

The Falcons, who finished the season 4-12, have reached the playoffs five times over the past 11 seasons, including a Super Bowl appearance in 2016. Atlanta led New England 28-3 midway through that game, but Tom Brady engineered a comeback that led to a 34-28 overtime win for the Patriots.

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA;Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley (18) runs with the ball as Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting (23) defends  during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs clinch fifth seed in NFC playoffs with win over Falcons

Tom Brady passed for 399 yards and four touchdowns to help the Tampa Bay Buccaneers record a 44-27 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday afternoon at Tampa, Fla.

Antonio Brown (11 receptions, 138 yards) and Chris Godwin (five catches, 133 yards) each caught two touchdowns for the Buccaneers (11-5), who notched their fourth straight win. Ronald Jones II rushed for a touchdown while Brady completed 26 of 41 passes with one interception during the 99th 300-yard passing game of his career.

Matt Ryan completed 29 of 44 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed for a score for the Falcons. Russell Gage (nine catches, 91 yards) and Hayden Hurst caught touchdown passes but couldn’t prevent Atlanta (4-12) from losing its fifth straight game.

Buccaneers wideout Mike Evans became the first player in NFL history to exceed 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first seven seasons before leaving with a left knee injury late in the first quarter. Evans, who was tied with Hall of Famer Randy Moss at six, needed 40 yards and got 46.

Tampa Bay clinched the fifth seed in the NFC playoffs and will be making its first appearance since 2007. The Buccaneers will visit the NFC East champion next weekend.

Tampa Bay outgained Atlanta 485-385.

The Falcons trailed 23-10 at halftime before getting back in the game with 10 third-quarter points. Atlanta ran 26 plays in the stanza to Tampa Bay’s five.

Ryan connected with Gage on a 19-yard scoring pass to pull the Falcons within six and Younghoe Koo kicked a 21-yard field goal with 30 seconds left as Atlanta moved within 23-20.

But the Buccaneers responded with a nine-play, 75-yard excursion and Ronald Jones II scored from the 3 to make it 30-20 with 11:13 remaining in the contest.

Less than three minutes later, it was again a three-point margin after Ryan tossed a 1-yard scoring pass to Hurst on fourth-and-goal.

But Brady threw two touchdown passes in a 62-second span to end the suspense. He threw a 4-yard scoring pass to Godwin with 3:54 left to make it 37-27 and added touchdown No. 40 on the season when he teamed with Brown on a 30-yard score with 2:52 remaining.

Brady passed for 202 yards and two touchdowns in the first half as the Buccaneers held the 13-point advantage.

Brady capped Tampa Bay’s game-opening drive with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Godwin. The team traded field goals later in the first quarter before Brady threw a 25-yard dart to Brown to give the Buccaneers a 17-3 lead with 12:30 left in the first half.

Ryan Succop kicked field goals of 38 and 25 yards later in the quarter, sandwiched around Ryan’s 1-yard keeper.

–Field Level Media

Nov 22, 2018; New Orleans, LA, USA; Atlanta Falcons helmets on the bench during their game against the New Orleans Saints in the first quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons working virtually after positive COVID-19 test

The Atlanta Falcons were working from home Thursday morning after a positive COVID-19 test.

“The organization was informed of one positive COVID-19 test from a member of the Atlanta Falcons,” the team said in a statement. “Contact tracing protocols have commenced and at this time the team has stopped all in-person work at IBM Performance Field with all operations conducted virtually on Thursday.”

The team did not state who tested positive.

The Falcons (4-11) are scheduled to conclude the regular season on Sunday against the Buccaneers (10-5) in Tampa, Fla.

–Field Level Media

Dec 26, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) scores a touchdown as Detroit Lions cornerback Darryl Roberts (29)  pursues during the third quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs WR Evans looking to make history against flailing Falcons

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in the playoffs for the first time in 13 years, but coach Bruce Arians still has a major task at the forefront of his mind.

Arians not only wants to close the regular season with a victory in Sunday’s game against the visiting Atlanta Falcons, but he also wants to see Mike Evans’ name standing alone in the record books.

Evans needs 40 receiving yards against the Falcons (4-11) to become the first player in NFL history to reach 1,000 in each of his first seven NFL seasons. Evans shares the current mark of six with Hall of Famer Randy Moss.

“I desperately want that to happen,” Arians said. “Whatever he needs or whatever he has left — I’m sure Atlanta’s not going to want to give it to him, so we’ll have to find some creative ways to get it for him.”

There were certainly times when it looked like there wasn’t much of a chance of the streak being extended.

Evans, 27, was bothered by a hamstring injury at the outset of the campaign and later suffered an ankle injury. He had just 2 receiving yards — yes 2 — in both Weeks 1 and 3.

When he had just 10 yards in Week 6, Evans’ total was at 281. Even in mid-December, he had just 669 yards with three games left.

But Evans heated up quickly. He had 110 yards in Week 15 when the Buccaneers (10-5) defeated the Falcons 31-17, and had his top outing of the campaign on Dec. 26 when he had 10 catches for 181 yards and two touchdowns in a 47-7 rout of the Detroit Lions.

And just like that, Evans’ total sits at 960 as he closes in on the record.

“Early in the season, I was hurt really bad,” Evans said. “But it’s my job to play, like I always say. It just feels good. I’m getting back on track and getting healthier.”

Despite the slow start, Evans has 67 receptions and a franchise-record 13 touchdown catches, breaking the mark he set in 2014 and 2016.

Evans meshes well with Tom Brady as the quarterback has set a franchise mark with 36 touchdown passes while throwing for 4,234 yards and 11 interceptions.

The Buccaneers are also hoping to have running back Ronald Jones II (900 rushing yards) back on the field. Jones came off the reserve/COVID-19 list but still is dealing with a fractured pinkie. He was limited in practice Wednesday, as was cornerback Carlton Davis (groin) and linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul (knee).

While Tampa Bay is seeking a fourth straight victory, the Falcons are hoping to avoid a fifth straight loss.

In fact, Atlanta fans won’t be overly crushed with another loss as many are consumed with the 2021 draft order. Only two teams — the New York Jets (2-13) and Jacksonville Jaguars (1-14) — have fewer victories than the Falcons.

“Our fan base is very knowledgeable and that’s their job to cheer for those types of things, but our job is to go out and win football games,” interim head coach Raheem Morris said. “We really love those guys, we really love Atlanta, we love everything we stand for, and when that time comes we’ll address those accordingly.”

Morris replaced Dan Quinn after the team’s 0-5 start and temporarily had things moving in the right direction with four wins in six games. The final game in that stretch was a 43-6 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders.

But the Falcons lost all four of their December games. The losses were all close with the margin of defeats by a combined 15 points.

The season as a whole leaves veteran quarterback Matt Ryan with mixed feelings. He sees all the chances his squad squandered but he feels optimistic about the near future.

“I feel like we’ve got a good core group of guys here that you can build on and I think we’ve been competitive,” Ryan said. “We just haven’t found a way to get the job done in finishing situations enough this year and it’s something we definitely have to improve at moving forward.”

Veteran receiver Julio Jones (hamstring) didn’t practice Wednesday and could miss his third straight game.

–Field Level Media