Skip to main content

'It just felt empty': Arthur Smith, John FitzPatrick talk highs and lows after roster cuts -- Falcons Daily

John FitzPatrick was fighting for a spot on the initial 53-man roster after spending last season on injured reserve

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — In the first practice following the deadline to form the initial 53-man roster, Falcons coach Arthur Smith joked that it felt like an elite private school with a one-for-one student-to-teacher ratio.

The 90-man training roster was reduced by 26 following Tuesday's deadline.

"It feels empty out there, it does," Smith said. "I'm like looking around like 'Where is everybody?'"


Roster cuts are an inevitable part of the early season. It marks another step closer to Week 1 but, still, it's not something the Falcons coaching staff takes lightly.

"It's a tough day," Smith said. "In any industry, it's hard to tell somebody that, 'Hey, you're not coming back.' So we try to do it with the utmost empathy and respect."

The Falcons added several waived players to their practice squad Wednesday, with all but two spots filled on the 16-player unit. Smith said they'll take their time determining those last spots whether they're added in the next 24 hours or into the next week.

Smith added that those practice reps are invaluable. He believes that, the odds are, many of those practice players will get playing time at some point due to injuries or different matchups.

Despite having multiple difficult conversations this week, Smith was pleased to tell players they were added back to the reserve unit. That was especially true for those whose paths to the NFL detoured first to the XFL, including LaCale London, Mathew Sexton and Barry Wesley.

"They've had a long journey, you can see the raw emotion when we tell them," Smith said. "Those guys went down and found a way; they kept playing and they haven't given up on their dream. That makes you feel good as a coach."

We take a look at the players on the current 53-man roster for the 2023 Atlanta Falcons, sponsored by Veepio.

Another feel-good story on the initial roster is John FitzPatrick. After the Falcons drafted the tight end in 2022's sixth round, the rookie tight end spent that season on injured reserve. FitzPatrick said injuries to both his feet messed with his confidence.

"Last year was extremely difficult," FitzPatrick said. "I'm just really appreciative of the people upstairs for knowing the type of player I am, for trusting in that, because a lot of teams saw two broken feet going into the draft process and looked the other way."

FitzPatrick started to feel like himself again in OTAs. He was running well and making plays without any pain. It signaled to him that he was getting back to his old self. During last training camp he started to run again, but it was a slow and arduous process.

During the team activities this offseason he had an "I can really do this thing" moment that shifted his mindset heading to training camp. After a strong six weeks, he was confident waiting for the text confirming he was one of the 53.

FitzPatrick took on a whatever-is-meant-to-be-will-be mentality, and it was.

"John's had a good camp," Smith said. "We think the future's bright with John; he's got to continue to learn."

The Georgia native could make his long-awaited NFL debut in Week 1, in less than two weeks, on Sept. 10.

Until then the players will have three days off over the holiday weekend. Chris Lindstrom likened it to a bye week before the regular season.

The veteran right guard said he appreciates how much thought is put into the ramp-up process. He also echoed Smith's sentiments that the practice field felt different after cuts.

"It's crazy... it's like a huge shift and you realize you know how impactful these days are," Lindstrom said. "It felt weird, it felt empty but then you just got to bring the juice and adjust to it."

The juice will be brought. With a long training camp and roster cuts out of the way. the Falcons understand their next challenge is the Carolina Panthers.

"It's a fun group to work with, a mature group," Smith said. "We know that perspective of Week 1. This is gonna be a long journey ahead of us but we're ready to go."

News and notes

  • TE Kyle Pitts and OL Chris Lindstrom returned to practice after missing back-to-back practices
  • The Falcons also signed OL Isaiah Prince to the 53-man roster, releasing OL Joshua Miles in a countermove. Coach Smith said he liked Prince's experience and meaningful snaps. Prince spent one season in Miami (2019) and one in Cincinnati (2021), playing 19 total games while starting six.
  • TE Jonnu Smith, RB Cordarrelle Patterson, WR KhaDarel Hodge, CB Jeff Okudah, CB Mike Hughes were absent from practice Wednesday.

Related Content