Hayden Hurst: I’m definitely a man on a mission this year

Last year, the Ravens traded former first-round pick Hayden Hurst to the Falcons. The deal gave the tight end an opportunity to play a bigger role on an offense.

Hurst parlayed that into his most productive season, catching 56 passes for 571 yards with six touchdowns — all career highs. But then the Falcons chose Kyle Pitts at No. 4 overall in April. A few days later, the Falcons declined to pick up Hurst’s fifth-year option.

The 25th overall pick of the 2018 draft, Hurst told reporters on Thursday that he hit offseason training hard in anticipation of the season, getting down to about eight percent body fat.

“I’m definitely a man on a mission this year,” Hurst said, via Scott Bair of the team’s website. “I have a lot of reasons to play a little bit harder.”

One of them is his pending free agency. But even with Pitts’ presence, Hurst expects to have a significant role in Atlanta’s offense under first-year head coach — and former tight ends coach — Arthur Smith.

“That’s the beauty of this offense,” Hurst said. “We’re going to operate at multiple tight end sets. History has proven that with coach Smith in Tennessee. I think we have a pretty good group of guys here in Atlanta and that he’s going to be able to utilize all of us in specific ways to create mismatches and make defenses uncomfortable.”

Hurst added that he plans to bet on himself in 2021.

“I’m going to go out and do my job,” Hurst said. “I’m going to like where I’m at come the end of the year.”