Kirk Cousins Expects To Be Full-Go ‘Well Before’ Week 1; Grady Jarrett Eyeing Training Camp Return

Thrust into an unusual situation following the Falcons’ scrutinized decision to draft Michael Penix Jr. eighth overall, Kirk Cousins is also in the final stages of rehab from his first significant NFL injury. The high-priced Atlanta QB is not quite recovered from his Achilles setback.

Cousins is close, however, and the 13th-year veteran said (via The Athletic’s Josh Kendall) he expects to be operating at full speed well before Week 1. In the meantime, the new Falcons passer has taken every snap with the team’s first-stringers during the offseason program.

The Falcons gave Cousins a four-year, $180MM deal that includes $100MM in practical guarantees. While they then made the unexpected move to draft Penix, no doubts about the team’s 2024 starter have surfaced. Cousins, who will turn 36 in August, is locked into that role. Although Penix took third-team reps — behind Taylor Heinicke — during the Falcons’ Tuesday minicamp practice, Kendall notes the Falcons expect the rookie to be the backup this season. Heinicke accepted a pay cut to remain with his hometown team, doing so before the team picked Penix.

The Vikings lost Cousins for the season on Oct. 29. While the durable QB had missed two starts during his Minnesota tenure, they came due to COVID-19 or the team resting starters in a season finale. The Falcons are betting on the immobile passer’s track record before he went down, and Cousins has called himself ahead of schedule; he previously did not expect to participate in OTAs or minicamp. Training camp will begin nearly nine months after the injury.

Cousins is the Falcons’ highest-profile player rehabbing an injury, but the team’s longtime defensive line anchor is also coming back from a season-ending malady. Grady Jarrett sustained an ACL tear on same day Cousins went down, missing the final nine games of Atlanta’s season. Unlike Cousins, Jarrett is not participating in Atlanta’s minicamp. Going into his 10th NFL season, Jarrett said he is targeting a return by training camp.

That’s my goal,” Jarrett said, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Gabriel Burns. “Obviously with training camp, there’s always a ramp-up period. Mine might look a little different, but the bulk of it, my goal is to have most of my reps in and not too much special treatment on the side. That’s what I’m working for.

It would certainly not surprise to see Jarrett begin camp on Atlanta’s active/PUP list, a designation that keeps players sidelined until they are ready to practice. A stay on the reserve/PUP list — a regular-season designation that costs players at least four games — appears unlikely. ACL tears affect players differently, and it has not been uncommon to see some midseason knee injuries lead to early-season absences the following year. But more than 10 months will have passed between Jarrett’s injury and the Falcons’ Week 1 game. It should be expected the veteran D-lineman will be available for Atlanta’s opener.

Jarrett, 31, is working in a third defensive system in three years. After Dean Pees‘ retirement, the Falcons moving on from Arthur Smith effectively ensured DC Ryan Nielsen would be a one-and-done in Georgia. Raheem Morris and fellow ex-Rams assistant Jimmy Lake are now running the show. Two seasons remain on Jarrett’s three-year, $49.5MM extension.

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