Falcons CB Casey Hayward on narrative Atlanta is rebuilding: 'Who says we can't' contend?

The Atlanta Falcons look like a rebuilding roster with more cavities than a pothole-riddled side street following the Matt Ryan trade.

But that's not how the players in the locker room will view the situation.

Case in point: Veteran corner Casey Hayward -- who signed on to join the Falcons before the Ryan trade -- was asked Thursday in his introductory press conference about why an aging veteran might choose Atlanta over a club that might have a better chance to compete for a title. The Georgia native responded in semi-disgust over the question.

"Who says that we can't (contend)?" he said. "You just never know. Every year is a different year. You never know how these things pan out. You never know how each year guys on the team get better and things like that. This game is about opportunity. Chance. Any time you go out there and strap it on, you've got a chance to win the game no matter what people think. No matter what people think about the roster or not."

It's easy to find faults with the Falcons roster. Marcus Mariota is set to be the starting quarterback -- barring Atlanta drafting a rookie early later this month. The receiver room is barren. The pass-catching progression is currently: Kyle Pitts, Kyle Pitts, Kyle Pitts, throwaway. The backfield consists of Cordarrelle Patterson and a question mark. A porous offensive line wasn't upgraded. The defense has been an issue for years. It still doesn't have a consistent edge rusher. The linebacking corps lost its best tackler in Foye Oluokun. And the secondary lacks a playmaking safety.

The pairing of Hayward -- who can still play at 32 years old -- and rising star A.J. Terrell at the corner spots is the best part of the roster.

Despite the negativity surrounding the Falcons, Hayward knows his job is to play the best ball he's capable of.

"We're grown men, we're going out there to try to win each and every game no matter how people view the roster or not," he said. "For me, I just go out there and compete no matter if people think we can win or can't win. Our goal is to go out there and try to win every game. Not saying we will, but that's the goal. Who cares what the outside thinks about the roster and things like that. Maybe we don't win games, and maybe we do, but our goal is to win them."

It's the type of response every professional player should have.

The brutality of the sport dictates the highest levels of commitment to one's craft. If a player enters the week assuming they'll lose, a debacle will ensue. The moment a player succumbs to the belief his team is tanking or has no chance, he might as well retire then and there.

So while the roster makeup is on the front office to figure out and build, the players in the locker room are there to work, compete and ultimately prove the outside narratives wrong.

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