Falcons’ Marcus Mariota steps away from the team after benching, unclear if he will return: report

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Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota has left the team and there is some uncertainty about when he will be back, if ever, according to a report from The Athletic.

Mariota’s departure comes on the heels of Falcons head coach Arthur Smith announcing that the decision to bench the veteran quarterback was “performance-based.”

Despite not taking a single shot in the regular season thus far, third-round rookie Desmond Ridder will step into the starting role.

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Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota (1) throws as Carolina Panthers defenseman Brian Burns (53) defends during the first half of an NFL football game on Sunday, October 30, 2022 in Atlanta.
(AP Photo/John Amis)

Smith said Mariota’s absence was less than ideal, but noted that the team was willing to be without him.

“Of course you want all your guys to be here, but guys have to make decisions. It’s part of professional sports. You have to have contingency plans,” head coach Arthur Smith said.

Smith oddly added that Mariota is dealing with some sort of lingering knee injury that will likely result in the quarterback being placed on injured reserve.

Mariota’s knee “is nothing that has been a problem this season, but that’s[his]prerogative so…” Smith clarified Tuesday.

Following the team’s Week 13 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Smith left the door open as it related to making a quarterback position change.

“We will have some very intense meetings in the next few days. Changes will be made. Anything we decide to do, I will try to be as transparent as possible,” Smith said on Dec. 5. previously redirected any questions related to a possible shift in the quarterback position.

Smith also said that Mariota was not with the team last Monday because his wife had gone into labor with their first child.

Marcus Mariota #1 and Desmond Ridder #4 of the Atlanta Falcons walk off the field after the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on October 23, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Marcus Mariota #1 and Desmond Ridder #4 of the Atlanta Falcons walk off the field after the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on October 23, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
(Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

According to The Athletic, Smith informed Mariota that Ridder would start at quarterback on Thursday morning. On Friday, the Falcons learned that Mariota was planning to leave the team.

“Those (conversations) are never easy,” Smith said. “You try to be truthful, whether they agree or not, those are the conversations you need to have.”

Marcus Mariota #1 of the Atlanta Falcons jogs with teammates during the warmup against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on November 10, 2022 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Marcus Mariota #1 of the Atlanta Falcons jogs with teammates during the warmup against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on November 10, 2022 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
(Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Mariota signed a $18.75 million two-year with the Falcons after the team traded longtime Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts in March.

The former Oregon standout and Heisman Trophy winner has led the Falcons to a 5-8 record. But Mariota’s passing yards, passing touchdowns and league percentage are all in the bottom half of the league.

Ridder saw a lot of action during the preseason. He completed 60.1% of his passes for 431 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions in those exhibition games.

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The Falcons are still in contention for the playoffs as they play in the NFC South, a division where every team currently has a losing record.

Atlanta travels to New Orleans this weekend for a crucial division game against their main rival, the Saints.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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