T.J. Yates returns to adoring fans

HOUSTON -- When the Atlanta Falcons' team plane descended into Houston, backup quarterback T.J. Yates felt a little bit like he was coming home.

Weird, though, because Atlanta actually is where he's from, and where he currently works. But those three seasons with the Texans got him very familiar with this place, and got fans very familiar with him.

On the practice field Wednesday, fans greeted him happily. And after practice, he was called to sign autographs, while most of his teammates slunk away unnoticed.

"It was really cool to see the fans still support me and stuff," Yates said. "I have a ton of memories here, a lot with these fans. For them to still show support even though I'm on the opposite side is really cool."

Not long ago, Yates got the message any player dreads. He'd been cut for the first time in his short NFL career. The Texans had opted to stick with starter Ryan Fitzpatrick and have Case Keenum and rookie Tom Savage compete to be the team's backup.

It was a low, but it was a low that barely lasted long. A few hours later, Yates got another call, this time letting him know -- just kidding, never mind. Instead of releasing him, the Texans were trading him to the Falcons, his hometown team.

The Houston team he faced today looks very different from the one he played for from 2011-13. Most notably, the starting quarterback he backed up throughout that time is in Oakland.

"You look at the (Texans) from a couple years ago, so many people are spread out all over the league," Yates said. "It’s the business and how it goes. It’s just how you bounce back when you go from team to team really determines how long you’ll play in this league."

Yates sees a nice opportunity for himself in Atlanta; one where he'll get more of an opportunity than he had in Houston.

And whether it's because of the memory of the first playoff win in franchise history, their knowledge of his affable nature, or because of the panic over the Texans' quarterback play in their first preseason game, fans were delighted to see Yates back in Houston.

"We miss you, T.J.!" one young fan shouted.

"I miss you guys, too," Yates replied.