A veteran NFL quarterback has stepped away from the team after he was demoted from starter to backup. According to Josh Kendall of The Athletic, Marcus Mariota left the Atlanta Falcons after being told he was going to have rookie Desmond Ridder be the starting quarterback. Mariota has not left the team for good as he was looking to have a “chronic” knee issue evaluated, according to Falcons head coach Arthur Smith. 

The knee “is nothing that has been an issue this season, but that’s (Mariota’s) prerogative so … ” Smith said.  “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.” On Wednesday, the Falcons announced they have placed Mariota on injured reserve, and he is having surgery on his knee, which ends his 2022 season. But before that, Smith told Mariota last Thursday morning that he was planning to go with Ridder as QB1. The following day, the Falcons learned that Mariota was planning to step away from the team. 

Mariota signed a two-year, $18.75 million contract with the Falcons in the offseason after the team traded Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts. He has played in 13 games this season and completed 61.3% of his passes while throwing for 2,219 yards, 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also rushed for a career-high 438 yards and four touchdowns. However, the Falcons have lost four of their last five games, and Mariota’s inability to be accurate with his passes was a big issue. 

The Falcons are not sure when or if Mariota will return to the team. “I do not. I’m just giving you the information that I’ve got, and I was putting in context on why we made the move with Logan [Woodside],” Smith said, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Also, putting in context, making the move with Des [Ridder] had nothing to do with that.”0comments

Ridder was selected by the Falcons in the third round (second quarterback overall) of this year’s draft. He played college football at the University of Cincinnati and led the team to a College Football Playoff appearance last year. In his four seasons at Cincinnati, Ridder threw for 10,239 yards and 87 touchdowns.