Falcons TE Kyle Pitts has knee surgery, out rest of season

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts is out for the season after he had surgery Tuesday to repair the MCL in his right knee, Falcons coach Arthur Smith said Wednesday.

Pitts injured his knee in the second half of Atlanta’s win against Chicago on November 20 and missed Sunday’s loss to Washington. Smith said that when they had the diagnosis of his injury they thought it was close if he could return this year and then sent him to certain knee experts for further determination.

Pitts posted a picture of him with a brace and bandage on his right knee after surgery on his Instagram Story late Tuesday night, the picture captioned “Day 1.”

Smith said he believes the injury will not impact Pitts’ 2023 season and they expect him to be operational by then. Whether Pitts will be ready to begin offseason training remains a question.

“We just have to see,” said Smith. “Nothing that affects us for real games in the season.”

Pitts, 22, was a rookie Pro Bowler in 2021 and became the second rookie tight end in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in his freshman year in the league.

Pitts played a different offensive style in his sophomore season and his numbers declined. He had 28 catches for 356 yards and two touchdowns in 10 games in 2022, and prior to the knee injury in November he was struggling with a hamstring injury that cost him a game in October.

Smith said after Pitts was injured his star tight end had played through a lot in the 2022 season, which showed in how he could – or couldn’t – open at top speed on outside courses.

“A year ago he obviously had bigger passing stats,” Smith said. “We were a completely different team in a different place. Where you’ve seen a lot of growth in many other jobs, we asked him. but you can see that growth as a player when he’s become a more complete player.”

A lot of that had to do with how Atlanta has been playing this season — much more dependent on run than pass — and the desire on the part of Pitts and the coaching staff to make Pitts a more complete tight end rather than receive a pass-just tight End.

During the offseason, Pitts worked hard on his blocking. The sophomore was very proud of that, telling ESPN earlier this season that the blocking “is something I take personally because it’s always like, ‘He’s just a receiver. He doesn’t want to block.’”

Atlanta has been chasing him a lot more this season than they were a year ago. And that’s one of the reasons Smith was happy with the season Pitts had, even if the stats didn’t show it.

Pitts showed that more in 2022 in a system that can demand more from tight ends than some others in the NFL. It’s the combination of what Pitts demonstrated on a more pass-heavy offense in 2021 and a more run-heavy offense in 2022 that helps give Smith confidence in Pitts’ future in 2023 and beyond.

“The best thing is that you don’t wish or hope,” Smith said. “You know he’s made it and you know he’s had other wins in different areas that we’ve asked him to do, so you’re very confident and positive about predicting the future.

“You can’t predict everything but you have evidence and he’s developed so much and is such an influential player whether he touches the ball or not.”

With Pitts out for the season, Atlanta has looked to a combination of tight ends MyCole Pruitt, Anthony Firkser and Parker Hesse, along with fullback Keith Smith and running back Cordarrelle Patterson, among others, to fill the various roles he has had within the team.

https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/35147336/falcons-te-kyle-pitts-knee-surgery-rest-season Falcons TE Kyle Pitts has knee surgery, out rest of season

Emma Bowman

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