FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP)The Atlanta Falcons on Tuesday released running back Damien Williams, the veteran who never returned after a rib injury in his first game with the team.

The release of Williams came one day after coach Arthur Smith announced rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder will start in Sunday’s game at New Orleans. Marcus Mariota has been benched, leaving his status for the remainder of the season uncertain.

Smith said the switch to Ridder was performance based, but added Mariota is having a chronic knee problem checked out and was expected to be placed on injured reserve.

Logan Woodside, who was signed off Tennessee’s practice squad, will serve as Ridder’s backup against the Saints.

Williams was projected to be the top backup to Cordarrelle Patterson, but instead was placed on injured reserve on Sept. 17 with the rib injury suffered in Atlanta’s 27-26 season-opening loss to New Orleans. He had only two carries for 2 yards in his only game with Atlanta, never coming off IR.

Rookie Tyler Allgeier, Patterson and Caleb Huntley have led Atlanta’s balanced running game.

Williams began his career with Miami in 2014. Following four seasons with the Dolphins, he also played for Kansas City for two seasons before appearing in eight games with Chicago in 2021.

One day after releasing inside linebacker Nate Landman, the Falcons signed Landman to their practice squad on Tuesday. Offensive lineman Parker Ferguson was released from the practice squad.

Landman has one tackle in seven games this season.

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