FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons have ruled out tight end Kyle Pitts because of a hamstring injury, leaving them without one of their top offensive players Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The 22-year-old Pitts has missed every practice this week, leading the second-year pro to miss the first game of his career.
Pitts has 10 catches for 150 yards in 2022 coming off a Pro Bowl season in which he was the second rookie tight end ever to eclipse 1,000 yards. He has been targeted 22 times in four games but has only one contest with more than two catches and 25 yards -- a five-reception, 87-yard effort against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 3.
Falcons coach Arthur Smith said Pitts' injury is "nothing major" but noted that the tight end was more sore than usual Monday and Tuesday after last week's game against the Cleveland Browns.
"Regardless of stats, Kyle is having a terrific year and he's been a huge impact player," Smith said Friday. "It's a long season, and he's a tough, really tough guy. You've got to assess as a staff, and I know he's not at 100 [percent] and a lot of guys in this league aren't at 100, but we don't want it to become something that lingers."
Smith said he doesn't anticipate Pitts' injury being a long-term one.
While he hasn't necessarily received the number of targets many expected, Pitts has been the primary receiver on a lot of plays but was covered or quarterback Marcus Mariota was forced to look elsewhere. Pitts has also taken a lot of attention from opposing defenses, opening up the field for rookie wide receiver Drake London and others.
"He's been healthy since he's been here, so it is hard to judge [what it will look like without him]," tight ends coach Justin Peelle said before Pitts was ruled out. "Better answer for you on Monday or Tuesday."
With Pitts out, the Falcons will look to a multitude of options to try to replace him.
Parker Hesse, in his second season with the Falcons, has been primarily a blocker as the No. 2 tight end after spending two seasons on the Tennessee Titans' practice squad. He has caught three passes for 32 yards.
The Falcons could also look more to Anthony Firkser, another former Titans player who signed with the Falcons in the offseason and has two catches for 28 yards. In his career, he has 108 catches for 1,135 yards and five touchdowns.
A third option could be converted quarterback Feleipe Franks, who has played six offensive snaps this season and has yet to record a reception. Franks made the full-time move to tight end during this offseason, and this could be his first real opportunity to play his new position for Atlanta.
"We have a bunch of versatile tight ends who can do a multitude of things," Firkser said. "Having those guys getting different reps, whether it's me, Hesse, Feleipe, just guys like that working in. We've kind of been doing that all year and all camp, so guys are just taking advantage of the reps that they are getting."
Pitts is the second high-impact offensive player the Falcons have lost this week. Atlanta put starting running back Cordarrelle Patterson on injured reserve Monday after he underwent a knee procedure. Patterson is expected back later this season.