Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith said Wednesday that Marcus Mariota will be placed on injured reserve and will undergo a knee procedure next week.
The veteran quarterback recently learned that he would be sitting on the bench with rookie third-round pick Desmond Ridder taking over as the starter.
Shortly after being informed that he was relieved of his initial duties, Mariota bizarrely decided to step away from the team.
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Knee surgery means Mariota will be unavailable for the Falcons’ remaining four regular-season games. The team opted to sign quarterback Logan Woodside this week to serve as a backup.
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The Falcons won’t know how long Mariota’s recovery will take until after he undergoes surgery, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Mariota was away from the team facility on December 5 because his wife had gone into labor with their first child, the day after the team’s Week 13 loss to the Steelers.
Smith claimed that Mariota has been dealing with some type of “chronic knee” injury, but the quarterback has never been listed on the team’s injury report this season. The coach refused to shed any light on when the team found out about Mariota’s injury.
Smith said the knee injury was not a factor in the decision to move Ridder to the starting job instead of Mariota.
“Things come up. Those are the things that happen in professional football,” Smith said. “A guy has a problem, he goes to see a doctor. That’s what happens.”
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Smith also wasn’t interested in discussing whether Mariota’s presence on the sidelines down the stretch would have benefited the rest of the team.
Falcons quarterbacks coach Charles London also deflected questions from reporters about Mariota’s condition, saying, “We wish Marcus the best.”
Ridder said Mariota told him he was leaving to fix his knee problem.
“He was here one of the days we were here,” Ridder said. “She just told me to wish her the best of luck, that she’ll be there for me if she needs anything, and to never be afraid to reach out.”
The former Oregon standout is in the first season of a two-year, $18.75 million contract with Atlanta. He has completed 184 of 300 passes for 2,219 yards, 15 touchdowns and 9 interceptions this year.
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Atlanta has lost four of its last five games with Mariota under center.