Yesterday, Sterling Hofrichter cleared waivers and was placed on injured reserve, which was the expected outcome after the surprising and unwelcome news that he was hurt and being waived by the team. Now that this particularly formality is out of the way, the Falcons have to answer a few questions.
The first, obviously, is when Hofrichter might be back. The then-rookie served as the team’s punter throughout 2020, taking over for the steady and tackle-loving Matt Bosher after the Falcons moved on from the nine year veteran. Arthur Smith did tell reporters that “it’s not the end of the road” for him, and with the NFL’s more relaxed injured reserve guidelines allowing for players to be activated after a three week stint on IR, I had hoped there would be a chance we’ll see if him back if rehabilitation goes well and he gets healthy at some point in the 2021 season. Aaron Freeman at Locked on Falcons dashed those hopes this morning, though.
Falcons put P Sterling Hofrichter on IR after clearing waivers.— Michael Rothstein (@mikerothstein) August 4, 2021
Confirmed that players that are moved to IR before final cuts are not eligible to return. So both Hofrichter & Graham are done for the season, unless the #Falcons decide to reach an injury settlement with them later, which means they probably won’t be playing in Atlanta.— Aaron Freeman (@falcfans) August 5, 2021
Atlanta’s got a punter problem to solve. Free agent signing Dom Maggio isn’t healthy at the moment but seems like he’ll be back at some point during preseason, leaving recent signing Cam Nizialek to hold down the fort for now. If Nizialek impresses and Maggio is slow to return, he obviously has a solid shot of at least temporarily taking over the position heading into the season. If Maggio is healthy soon, given that he was an early signing once Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith came aboard, I’d expect him to push for the job. Either way, if the Falcons aren’t thrilled with their options they may dip back into free agency or look into post-53 man cutdown options to bolster the position.
We’ll know within a few weeks who Atlanta’s regular season punter of choice will be. As is the case with a great many positions on the roster right now, there’s more mystery here than anyone would like.