FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Wearing a light gray suit with a red tie and black sneakers, Kirk Cousins ​​took the stage Wednesday night to explain and amplify what he was saying as he settled into his new home.

The Atlanta metro area has long been a familiar place for the Atlanta Falcons’ new quarterback and his family. His wife Julie grew up here. He has spent parts of the outdoor seasons in his father-in-law’s basement in Johns Creek, Georgia.

So when the opportunity to come to Atlanta arose – and it came with a strong football commitment within him – he took it. Shortly after signing a four-year contract worth up to $180 million, he explained that it was Atlanta’s buy-in that ultimately sold him on leaving Minnesota.

“I think it’s been a trend from year to year in Minnesota the last couple of seasons,” Cousins ​​said. “And when we talked to Atlanta, it felt like this was a place where I could retire as a Falcon if I play at the level I expect to play.

“And that was something that really excited me and that’s certainly the goal and you have to earn the right to do that.”

Cousins ​​knows he has to win. But before he can really think much about winning, he needs to get healthy. Cousins ​​is still recovering from a torn right hand that Achilles suffered in October, the first surgery of the 35-year-old’s life. He called the rehab “a very positive process” and credited the Vikings’ training staff and his own trainers with helping him get through the first few months after surgery.

Cousins ​​says he’s “feeling great” and has set a goal of being able to train at full strength by the end of the mandatory mini-camp in Atlanta, but he also knows not to rush his return. Right now, Cousins ​​can take drops and throw the ball well, but if he had to leave the pocket, he said it would be clear he’s still recovering from the injury.

When he returns, Atlanta is counting on him to be the player he has been for most of his career. He played in 150 games with 145 starts and completed 66.9% of his passes for 39,471 yards, 270 touchdowns and 110 interceptions during six years in Washington, followed by six years in Minnesota.

The former fourth-round pick made Pro Bowls in three of his past five seasons — and was on pace for one of the best seasons of his career in 2023, before the Achilles injury.

Earlier Wednesday, Cousins ​​posted a video of the Vikings and the residents of Minneapolis/St. Paul called it “a bit of a bittersweet day” because it meant he would have to leave the Vikings.

Atlanta felt like a familiar place. A comfortable place. He and Julie were married in Roswell, Georgia. Their youngest son was born in Atlanta. Cousins ​​and Julie’s first date was at Stone Mountain in suburban Atlanta. Off the field it made sense.

Within the organization, Cousins ​​was struck by the alignment he saw among team owner Arthur Blank, general manager Terry Fontenot and coach Raheem Morris.

When you see Mr. Blank’s dedication to winning and what he has done over the years to make the Falcons a top-notch organization. When you see the players that Terry has drafted, when you see his experience with the Saints and what they have built over the years. years and the success he already has,” Cousins ​​said. “And then I knew Raheem, and when I see what he’s done and what he’s been up to and the people he’s led and the people who’ve worked with these people, speaking so highly of them, I mean, it Evidence just piled up to show that this is some serious alignment here.”

The cousins ​​knew Morris from their shared time in Washington and remembered Morris, then the defensive backs coach, walking down the hall to the quarterbacks’ meetings – an image that stuck with him. He called former Saints quarterback Drew Brees and asked about Fontenot, whom Brees worked with for more than a decade in New Orleans.

“I think the trend in Minnesota over the last few seasons has been to play somewhat year-to-year. And when we talked to Atlanta, I felt like this was a place where, if I play at the level that I expect to play, can play.” retire a Falcon. And that was something that really excited me and that’s certainly the goal and you have to earn the right to do that. ‘

Kirk cousins

Brees “raved about him, about his football knowledge,” Cousins ​​said.

And a few weeks ago, he received a text message from an unknown number while waiting in line for the Guardians of the Galaxy ride at EPCOT. The sender was Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts, who Cousins ​​first met at the Pro Bowl after the 2021 season.

“He said, ‘We’re ready to take us to the promised land,’” Cousins ​​said. “I said, ‘Well, you know, let’s talk.’ It was just nice that he recruited a little bit.”

Cousins ​​didn’t need much selling. He had seen Pitts’ skills and the type of player he could be. In recent days, after agreeing to the deal, he spoke with receiver Drake London and texted back to Bijan Robinson, coming away impressed.

After those conversations, he told Julie, “These guys are sharp.” He understood how much they wanted to win. He had been there the last time Atlanta was a consistent winner.

During the 2016 season, Cousins ​​had gone to the playoff games at the Georgia Dome as they defeated Seattle and Green Bay – a success he would like to emulate.

“Remember watching those games and absorbing that moment,” Cousins ​​said. “And it’s really a goal of mine to relive that moment as a player here.

“And that’s really the dream.”

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