After putting about 300 football campers through a four-hour workout at Centennial High on Saturday, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan discussed several topics in an exclusive interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
While heavily guarding some aspects of his private life, Ryan has seemingly done the unthinkable in five short years. As he’s set to become football’s next $100 million player, Ryan is primed for superstardom and has adroitly replaced Michael Vick as the face of the franchise.
Ryan opened up about how excruciatingly painful last season’s loss in the NFC Championship game was for him and how he watched the Super Bowl in angst. He also talked about why he’s guarded about some aspects of his private life, the use of Twitter and what the Falcons need to do to reach the Super Bowl this season.
Ryan sat down in the school cafeteria for a candid, wide-ranging Q&A after the camp. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: How are you grasping the concept of signing a new lucrative contract?
A: My approach has always been to handle my job on the field and to take care of all of the things that I can do on the field. Have myself prepared and ready to play as best I can. Then, I’ve always been of the opinion that the other stuff will take care of itself if you do your job the way you should. So, I’ve got great agents, and I think we’ve got a great front office with the Falcons. I’m confident that it will get done here at some point.
Q: Will there be any extra burdens when you join the $100 million club?
A: I don’t worry about it. I think that I put high expectations on myself, and I try and do the best that I can do. I try not to worry about all of the other stuff.
Q: What motivates you at this point in your career?
A: A championship. That’s it. That’s kind of always been the case for me. I think that’s really the case for all of the guys on our team at this point. We want to win one. We’ve been close, but we haven’t gotten it done. I think everybody is motivated and has that mindset that we are going to do everything that we can to win a championship.
Q: What replays in your head when you’re thinking about the NFC Championship game from last season? The good plays like the touchdown pass to Julio (Jones) or the bad plays like the fumbled snap?
A: A little bit of both. We did some good things, but ultimately we fell short. We made a couple of mistakes, and those are things you can’t do in that type of game. But ultimately, I think more than anything, you’ve got to learn from it. You have to learn from those experiences and take away not only the bad things, but the good things, too.
Q: How difficult is it for you to turn off your football radar when you get a break in the offseason?
A: You never, really, really have a day that goes by where you don’t think about some aspect of it. But I think it is necessary to get away from it a little bit so that you’re fresh when you come into training camp.
Q: How long did it take for you to get over the playoff loss?
A: I don’t know about a specific time frame, but it takes a little bit of time. I think the best way to get over it was to start preparing for the next season. When you start to get into your offseason workouts and you start watching the film, you are trying to find specific ways to get better, then you start to move on from it.
Q: What was going on in your mind as you watched the Super Bowl? Or, did you watch it?
A: I watched it. At that point, it’s always difficult because you want to be there. As close as we were, you felt like we could have been there if we had done a couple of things differently. It’s one of those things where you were not emotionally invested as much as some other people. I watched it. It was a good game. I was happy for Joe (Flacco) and the Ravens. They had a great run in the playoffs, but I was just detached.
Q: What drives you now that you’re widely accepted as one of the top quarterbacks in the (NFL)?
A: Being better. I think I feel like and when I watch it, there’s a lot of room for improvement for myself. There are certainly tons of areas where I can be a lot better than I’ve been. I think trying to be better than I’ve been. I’m trying to be the absolute best that I can be. I think that’s personally and individually what drives me.
Q: Anything tangible?
A: Sure. I think there are ways. … I kind of harp on it all the time, but improving my footwork and trying to be better inside the pocket. My movements inside the pocket can be even better. I think that’s something, for me, that’s a tangible thing. When I’m good with my feet and good inside the pocket, I feel like I play really good football. Sometimes, when I get loose, that’s when I don’t play my best. I want to keep improving in that area.
Q: How have you handled the stardom part of your job?
A: I think fairly well. I don’t go chasing it, but I understand that’s part of what comes with the position that I play. Being in the NFL at this time, it’s such a popular thing. It’s kind of what comes along with it. I feel lucky to play in the place that I do and to be surrounded by the people of Atlanta. They’ve been extremely welcoming, nice and very respectful at the same time. I’m lucky to be in the city that I am.
Q: Why have you been so guarded about some aspects of your private life?
A: I think professionally, everything is such an open book. That’s kind of the way it goes. People have access to it, and even some parts of my personal life have been accessed. But there are other parts that out of respect to the relationships and the people that I have (in my life), I find it important to keep those things private. Like I said, it’s been a conscious effort on my part, but it’s always been because a lot of people have been extremely respectful. I really am thankful that I’m in the situation that I am.
Q: How do you reconcile the need for privacy and then also using social media like Twitter?
A: I try and give people a little bit of a glimpse into (my life). I try to show them that I’m a normal person (laughs) like everybody else. I do the same kind of stuff that everybody does. The difference is that professionally, it’s a very public thing that I do, and it’s a great platform. Twitter is a great platform to let people kind of see you for who you are in a certain sense. It’s been fun.
Q: How do the Falcons reach the Super Bowl this season?
A: If I had the crystal ball … I would love to know. But I think it comes down to the same things that we’ve believed in for five years. Hard work. Being detailed and taking it week-to-week.
Q: In other words, being resilient like coach (Mike) Smith says all the time?
A: It’s not anything that is really, really unique or earth-shattering. I think just sticking to the basics is the way to get there. I think one of the things that Smitty has done the best is that he’s just believed in that and kept to that simple philosophy the last couple of years.
Q: With Chipper (Jones) in retirement and the Hawks not really having a star, can you fill the mega-star void in the city in the post-Vick era?
A: I’m certainly conscious of representing the Atlanta Falcons as best I can because they’ve been incredibly great to me. At the same time, representing the city of Atlanta the best I can, too. … I will try and be the best ambassador that I can for the Falcons and for the city of Atlanta.