Atlanta Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst is returning to practice this week, according to head coach Arthur Smith. Hurst has been on injured reserve for the last three games but will be a welcome presence for the Falcons passing game.
Hurst plus rookie sensation Kyle Pitts? That should help.
Hurst also needs to have a strong finish to his season for his own sake. After the Falcons decided not to pick up the option year on his rookie contract, Hurst is scheduled to be a free agent at the conclusion of the season.
He picked a bad time to have one of his worst statistical seasons.
Originally a first-round draft pick by the Baltimore Ravens, Hurst had just 13 catches for 163 yards and a touchdown in 12 games as a rookie in 2018.
Hurst was acquired by the Falcons prior to the 2020 season. He had 56 catches for 571 yards last year but has just 20 catches for 158 yards in nine games in 2021.
A strong finish to 2021 would not only help the Falcons the final five games of the season but would greatly enhance Hurst's value in free agency.
In what looks like a corresponding move, Atlanta waived veteran punter Dustin Colquitt. Colquitt was signed on September 21 after Cameron Nizialek injured a hamstring on a kickoff.
However, the Falcons also signed long-time Saints punter Thomas Morstead two weeks ago, and he promptly earned NFC Special Teams Player of the Week in his first game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
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The Falcons are in action this week against the Carolina Panthers. A healthy Hayden Hurst could help the Falcons offense get on track after scoring a total of just 41 points in the last four games.