FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes Dan Quinn showing support for Falcons tight end Austin Hooper as well as the latest on Johnny Manziel's attempt to get back in the NFL.
FALCONS HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
*USA TODAY: *Quinn gives vote of confidence for Austin Hooper
Most would agree that adding some pieces to the offensive and defensive lines is the Falcons' top priority this offseason, but there is a contingent of the fan base that would like to see a big-name tight end brought to Atlanta. Those fans have apparently lost faith in Austin Hooper, who just completed his second NFL season and has earned steady praise from the coaching staff. Falcons coach Dan Quinn continued to support Hooper during his press conference at the combine in Indianapolis on Wednesday.
"We're really pumped about what Austin can do," Quinn said. "And he played a good snap count this year; he ended up with, I believe, 49 catches. He's got athleticism. He's a good matchup getting onto safeties… and kind of the fun part about being one of the features in our offense is there's a number of guys that are real weapons. So, if you're going to make sure coverage is going to go to Julio [Jones] or you're going to try to put special coverage over to [Mohamed Sanu] on third down or onto Devonta [Freeman] or Tevin [Coleman] as a running back, it's like 'A-ha!' There's another moment and another player that's a matchup.
"So that's what we're hopeful [for] if we can help Hoop get to that spot. We're very excited about what he can be. That will be a big challenge for him this offseason, to be the best player and be the best version of himself."
Hooper was targeted 65 times in 2017, hauling in 49 passes for 526 yards and three touchdowns. As a rookie, Hooper saw greater playing time down the stretch and caught a touchdown in Super Bowl LI.
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BIGGEST NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFL
NFL.com: Johnny Manziel speaking with NFL coaches about a comeback
Perhaps the NFL hasn't seen the last of Johnny Football. After his career was derailed in 2015 due to several off-field issues, Manziel has attempted to turn his life around and make another run at a career playing professional football. Manziel has already announced he will be joining The Spring League this year, which is a developmental league meant to help showcase talent for NFL and CFL teams, but he is also lobbying for a return to the highest level.
According to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, Manziel "is in touch with multiple head coach" and discussing how he could earn another shot.
"There have been conversations," Garafolo told NFL Network, per NFL.com's Marc Sessler. "... People around him believe it's a very real possibility that he could return to the NFL, whether before or after his appearance in the Spring League."
Garofolo also reports that Manziel has told teams he will play for the league minimum with no amount of his salary guaranteed if it earns him a shot. He's also willing to sign a practice-squad deal and sticking on a team's practice squad all season to prove he is serious about a second attempt at making it in the NFL and has the right mindset moving forward.
Here are some more articles from around the league:
CBS Sports: Gronk nearly retired in training camp
NFL.com: Matt Forte retires after 10 seasons