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Cousins shrugs off drafting of Penix, says he’s ready to make it work for the Falcons

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Kirk Cousins shrugged off any hard feelings Tuesday over the Atlanta Falcons drafting Michael Penix Jr., insisting he’s ready to compete and doesn’t think there will be any issues in the quarterback room.

Cousins spoke after the two quarterbacks worked together during an offseason training session at the Falcons’ suburban complex in Flowery Branch.

“There’s always going to be competition in this league,” Cousins said. “You’ve got to go out and earn it. I control what I can control and also understand there’s a lot I don’t control. I learned a long time ago you’ve got to focus on what you can control.”

Cousins was one of the biggest free-agent signings of the offseason, agreeing to a $180 million, four-year deal with the Falcons that includes $100 million in guaranteed money. He was viewed as the missing piece on a team that has endured six straight losing seasons since its most recent playoff appearance in 2017.

Then, in the most shocking decision of the draft, the Falcons selected Penix with the No. 8 overall selection, which clearly caught Cousins off guard.

He didn’t exactly endorse the selection of Penix, dodging a question about whether he would’ve signed with the Falcons if he knew they were planning to draft another quarterback in the first round.

“I don’t really deal in hypotheticals,” Cousins said. “We could go down that path a long time in a lot of ways. It just doesn’t do us any good. I’m excited for this opportunity. I think it’s a real privilege to play quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons. I’m trying to make good on the opportunity that’s been given to me with the way I work each day and the way we play this fall.”

The Falcons have insisted that Cousins is their No. 1 quarterback for now, while Penix is being groomed for a future starting role. The 13-year veteran said he’s committed to making a potentially uncomfortable situation work to everyone’s benefit.

“The quarterback room is a working force for one another,” he said. “We’re all in there working together to help each other. That dynamic has always been there and will always be there.”

Even though he’s yet to play a game for the Falcons, Cousins already finds himself at the center of two potentially troubling issues.

In addition to a potential quarterback controversy, the Falcons also are being investigated by the league for possible tampering over comments made by the quarterback at his introductory news conference, when he talked of speaking with players and staff members in Atlanta before his deal was finalized.

Cousins turned back a couple of questions on the tampering probe, saying he didn’t want to speak on it while the league was in the midst of its investigation, though he did indicate there was no wrongdoing in his eyes.

“The league is still kind of going through that, so I’ll let them do it. But there’s not a whole lot there,” Cousins said, adding later that “if I said anything at the press conference, it was so innocent.”

Cousins showed little signs of the torn right Achilles tendon that cut short his final season with the Minnesota Vikings. He said the injury is not 100% healed, but he was able to do everything he wanted during the workout and expects to be ready to go by the start of training camp.

“It’s progressing well,” said Cousins, who is 6 1/2 months into a rehab period that was expected to take up to nine months. “There’s still more to go get.”

As for his dealings with a high-profile backup, Cousins insisted this is nothing new in his football career.

He recalled signing out of high school with Michigan State, only to learn a short time later that the Spartans were also offering a scholarship to future NFL quarterback Nick Foles. After his college career, he was a fourth-round pick of Washington, which had already selected Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III at No. 2 overall.

“I learned pretty quickly as a freshman in college that you’ve got to compete,” Cousins said. “That’s the way it’s always been and the way it will always be. This is consistent with my football journey as opposed to the exception.”

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl

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