Falcons Place New TE, 3 Others on COVID-19/Reserve List

Lee Smith

Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images Lee Smith of the Buffalo Bills warms up before a game against the New England Patriots on November 01, 2020.

The NFL is continuing with its COVID-19 testing protocols and contact tracing for the 2021 season.

Per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, a total of 15 players landed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Four of them were Atlanta Falcons players, including new tight end Lee Smith, defensive tackle John Atkins, edge Kobe Jones, offensive lineman Willie Wright, according to Falcons’ insider Michael Rothstein.

Pelissero also reported that of the 15—14 were deemed positive covid cases.

It’s unclear if the players listed above have been vaccinated or not, but either way they will follow league isolation protocols and keep up with training camp remotely.

The NFL recently passed a new rule that if an unvaccinated player tests positive for the virus while in season, then the team must automatically forfeit. The Falcons are among the nine teams with 90% of their players vaccinated, according to AJC’s Orlando Ledbetter.

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Smith’s NFL Career Thus Far

Smith, 33, entered the league in 2011 as a fifth-round pick of the New England Patriots (No. 159 overall), a college product from Marshall University.

Prior to the 2011 season, Smith was waived by the Patriots and picked up on waivers by the Bills, where he played for four years before moving on to the Oakland Raiders. He eventually returned to the Bills in 2019, where he played the past two seasons.

The veteran appeared in ten games with two starts and played just 16 percent of the snaps on offense and 17 percent of the snaps on special teams.

Over the course of his career, Smith has played in 133 games with 73 starts, totaling 64 receptions for 458 yards (7.2 yards per reception) and ten touchdowns.

Smith Has One Goal for 2021

Unlike veteran Hayden Hurst or rookie Kyle Pitts, Smith didn’t agree to come to Atlanta to reel in touchdowns and put points on the board. Instead, his top priority is blocking and protecting Matt Ryan.

“I like having my hand in the dirt and partying with the offensive linemen,” Smith said via Falcons’ official website. “I’m the run game guy, I’m in there to make sure the other teams don’t hit the running back or Matt Ryan.”

The Falcons’ offensive line could use a guy like Smith after Ryan was sacked 41 times in 2020.

When head coach Arthur Smith was offensive coordinator at the Tennessee Titans, four tight ends played more than 200 snaps last year to help with run blocking and pass protection.

To say the least, Lee (Smith) is excited about his new role in Atlanta and helping the team in the “rebuilding process” get back to their winning ways as a Super Bowl contender.

“I’m super excited to help Matt (Ryan) and Arthur (Smith) get this thing back to the way they want it,” Smith said. “Back to the point where the Atlanta community can’t wait for Sundays and home games.”


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