On Thursday, the Falcons told quarterback Marcus Mariota he’d be benched. The next day, he left the team.
It’s a confusing situation, exacerbated by an erroneous item from SI.com claiming that Mariota’s partner had a baby had a baby on Tuesday of this week. If true, that would explain his absence from the team. The truth, however, is that the baby was born last week, after the game against the Steelers.
Indeed, coach Arthur Smith painted a very different picture to TheAthletic.com, creating the clear impression that Mariota left for reasons unrelated to a recent visit from the stork.
As Smith told it, the Falcons weren’t quite sure whether Mariota will be back. At all.
Executives from other teams are scratching their heads at this. Mariota technically can’t be placed on injured reserve without a true and genuine injury that prevents him from playing. Having a supposedly chronic knee injury that he suddenly decides is bad enough to sideline him isn’t enough — especially when he hasn’t been listed A SINGLE TIME in 2022 on the team’s injury report, for any reason.
They can, if they want, carry him on the roster. That basically leaves them with 52 players, not 53. They also could waive him, but then he could land with another team. Maybe a team in the division, like the Saints. Maybe a team the Falcons still play, like the Ravens or the Cardinals.
Regardless, the situation is bizarre. And the fact that he recently welcomed a baby into the world doesn’t really tell us much about the situation, especially if he continues to be absent through the coming weekend.