Modest Pitts won’t project role as rookie TE with Falcons


ATLANTA — Kyle Pitts did his best to sound like any other rookie just trying to fit in, even though he knows he’s expected to play a high-profile role from his first game with the Atlanta Falcons.

Modesty goes over well for a rookie, even one of the top selections in the NFL draft.

Following Friday’s rookie camp workout at the Falcons’ facility in Flowery Branch, Georgia, Pitts said all the right things.

Asked his expectations for the rookie camp, Pitts said: “Just to be the best player I can be and help this team to win in any form and fashion.”

Two weeks after the Falcons made Pitts the No. 4 overall pick in the draft, the rookie camp is providing the former Florida tight end his first time on the practice field.

Pitts gives quarterback Matt Ryan a new playmaker in an already formidable passing game.

Barring an offseason move for an Atlanta team still facing salary cap issues, Ryan’s top receivers return, including Calvin Ridley, Julio Jones, Russell Gage and tight end Hayden Hurst.

There could be times Hurst and Pitts are on the field together. Pitts (6-foot-6, 245 pounds) is a matchup nightmare for defenses. He is projected as a tight end who could line up like a wide receiver.

Pitts wouldn’t take part in projections on how he’ll fit in with Hurst.

“Hurst is a great tight end and I look forward to seeing how he does at this level to make myself kind of emulate his game and add some of his tools in my box,” Pitts said.

“I’m not looking into the future right now. I’m just letting the coaches do what they do. I’m just here trying to grind every day and be the best I can be and contribute to the tight end room.”

As Pitts went through his paces on the field, even his new No. 8 reflected the respect he is paying to his veteran teammates. Veteran Cordarrelle Patterson has the No. 84 that Pitts wore at Florida. Pitts settled on a new number instead of asking Patterson for the 84.

“Cordarrelle Patterson is a great vet who had 84 already,” Pitts said. “So I just decided I really didn’t want to try to interfere with his career or anything like that.”

The rookie camp provided the opportunity for the Falcons’ second-round pick, safety Richie Grant, to defend Pitts.

Grant said Pitts “became my bro, just like everybody else” when they met at rookie camp.

The Falcons lost safeties Ricardo Allen, Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee in free agency, so Grant also will compete for a starting job.

There are opportunities for other Atlanta rookies to start or earn immediate playing time. Drew Dalman, the fourth-round pick from Stanford, will push second-year player Matt Hennessy at center.

Jalen Mayfield, a third-round pick from Michigan, will have an opportunity at left guard. Cornerbacks Darren Hall of San Diego State and Avery Williams of Boise State could compete for the starting job opposite 2020 first-round pick A.J. Terrell.

NOTES: The rookies are being housed in apartments on the property of the Falcons practice facility. That protects the players from the gas shortages that have spread across Georgia and the South. “Actually, I got a full tank of gas right before that situation happened, so I was fortunate,” Grant said. “Then I pulled into the gate and I didn’t need my car anymore.”

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