FLOWERING BRANCH, Ga.
Desmond Ridder has heard stories of NFL training camps where four or five quarterbacks line up for snaps, adding pressure to get the most out of every rep.
There’s no shortage of shots for Ridder at Atlanta Falcons camp. Cincinnati rookie Ridder and veteran Marcus Mariota take almost all the shots. The only other quarterback in camp, Feleipe Franks, spends most of his time at tight end.
Second-year coach Arthur Smith wants to give as much time as possible to Mariota, who opened camp as a starter, and Ridder, a possible long-term option.
“I mean, we’ll always give Feleipe a few reps at times, but when you have limited reps, we try to make sure Marcus and Des get as many as possible,” Smith said Wednesday, adding that he has an “emergency plan” at the station.
That’s fine with Ridder.
“I’m grateful for that,” Ridder said. “Sometimes you might be a little tired here because there’s only two guys, but then you think you’ve been working up to this point our whole life…and with three, four or five guys at camp. workout, you hear the stories that you might only get one rep. You better make sure that rep counts.
“I’m just lucky to come here and for now to be one of two guys.”
Ridder made a strong impression early on as a quick learner in rookie camp and minicamp. Even so, Mariota would have to be outplayed by Ridder to lose the starting position.
The Falcons signed Mariota to a two-year, $18.75 million contract on March 21 after trading 14-year-old starter Matt Ryan to Indianapolis.
Mariota, 28, is motivated to take advantage of the opportunity to relaunch his career during his second stint with Smith, the former offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans.
Mariota, who was the Titans’ best quarterback in his first four seasons, has been limited to just six starts combined in the past three years with Tennessee and Las Vegas.
Now comes the fresh start he was looking for.
“I think for me it’s a great opportunity for me to prove, not only to myself but to those who believed in me,” Mariota said. “So I’m excited. The last two years have been a great reset.
Mariota has 61 career starts and the added bonus of being familiar with Smith’s system, although the quarterback notes the coach has tweaked his playbook over the years.
“I feel very comfortable,” Mariota said. “Being around art all this time in Tennessee, I think that’s where it came from, but I think he’s done a great job of collaborating and creating new things. For us, as an offense it’s exciting. It just allows us to go and play fast and do creative things, but for the most part I feel really comfortable, I feel really confident and I love where we are.
Eager to learn, Ridder studies his playbook. He also pays special attention to Mariota.
“Marcus has been in Coach Smith’s system before, he knows a lot more,” Ridder said. “I’m just trying to learn from him and learn how he approaches the game plan and learn how we do it every week so I can improve and be the best I can be.”
NOTES: The Falcons signed S Henry Black, who was released by the New York Giants on Tuesday, to a one-year contract. Black played for Green Bay in 2020-21. TE Brayden Lenius has been released. … Todd McClure, the center who played his entire 14-year career with Atlanta, has been selected for the Falcons Ring of Honor. McClure, who retired after the 2012 season, set a franchise record by starting 144 consecutive games from 2001 to 2010. He will become the 12th player inducted into the Ring of Honor at halftime of the Falcons’ game against Carolina October 30. Other Atlanta players to honor: Tommy Nobis, Claude Humphrey, Jeff Van Note, Steve Bartkowski, Mike Kenn, William Andrews, Gerald Riggs, Jessie Tuggle, Deion Sanders, Warrick Dunn and Roddy White.
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