Friday July 19th, 2024 11:16PM

Falcons rookie QB Michael Penix Jr. says he is 'super blessed' to learn behind starter Kirk Cousins

By The Associated Press

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Michael Penix Jr. insists he'll have no difficulty adjusting to his role as the backup to new Atlanta Falcons starting quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Before taking the field on Friday for rookie minicamp, Penix was greeted by Cousins at the team's practice facility. Others have speculated there could be potential for friction between Penix, the No. 8 overall pick in last month's NFL draft, and Cousins, who about one month earlier signed with Atlanta to a four-year, $180 million contract with $100 million guaranteed.

“He said ‘What’s up, man?’” said Penix of Cousins. “He said he was happy to see me, happy to have me here. I just told him I can’t wait to work with him.”

Added Penix: “We’re on the same team. It’s not hard to approach that relationship. We’ve got the same goals. That’s to win football games. … It’s definitely going to be great. I’m super blessed to be able to be right here in this position with a veteran in front of me, just learning from him and going about my business each and every day and just trying to find ways to improve and get to where he is, multiple years in the league.”

The two quarterbacks join first-year coach Raheem Morris, who said the primary objective for his first rookie camp was to help the newcomers become acclimated.

“I told the rookies together the best way of going about this is being your best self ... just go out there and be yourself,” Morris said. “Really, not just Penix but all of those guys.”

For Penix, the minicamp session open to reporters meant an introduction to media attention rarely devoted to Falcons rookies.

There was standing room only for Morris's news conference on Friday before Penix, whose selection by Atlanta was a major surprise, threw on the field to other rookies. The decision by general manager Terry Fontenot and Morris to draft Penix generated much second-guessing.

Morris and Fontenot have emphasized there is no question Cousins, who will be 36 this season and is recovering from an Achilles injury, is the starter. They also say they never wavered at the opportunity to select Penix, the gifted passer they immediately tagged as the future starter.

Others suggested the Falcons would have been better served by using the first-round pick to address an immediate need, such as the pass rush. The Falcons haven't made the playoffs or had a winning season since 2017. Fontenot and Morris believe the team is ready to win this season and they don't expect to have another opportunity to select a quarterback they value as highly as Penix.

That puts the spotlight on Penix.

“I feel like at this level in the NFL everybody is in the spotlight,” Penix said. “You’ve got to prove yourself each and every day. ... It’s something I’ve been dreaming of since I was a kid. And now that I’m here, I just want to continue to prove myself each and every day and show not just myself but the team that I’m here to work and here to help this team win football games any way that I can."

Penix, who will be 24 as a rookie, played for Washington and led FBS schools with 4,903 passing yards and was third with 36 touchdown passes in 2023.

Wearing No. 9, Penix looked comfortable throwing consistently accurate passes, including to wide receiver Casey Washington, a sixth-round pick from Illinois.

“Whenever my time comes and whenever my number is called, I’ve just got to make sure I’m ready,” Penix said. “I’m here now. I can’t sit here and be starstruck no more. I’ve got to produce.”



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