Schraeder back in the fold with Falcons, and he didn’t rush to get there

Ryan Schraeder is new to football again, and the Falcons’ right tackle is kind of low-keying his second shot at the game much like he laid low in his absence.

On one hand, he said, “Sunday can’t get here soon enough,” yet Schraeder also makes it clear that he did nothing to rush his return to action for Sunday’s game against the Dolphins after he sustained a concussion Sept. 17 against the Packers.

Following the NFL’s concussion protocol and his own common sense, he shut out the game after that, staying away from the Falcons’ facility, all but staying off his phone, cutting his exposure to light and, frankly, just chilling. He went more than 10 days without the game.

“If you have sensitivity to light, it’s best not to look at a TV or laptop, so I didn’t study until I was feeling 100 percent,” Schraeder said. “Obviously, getting back from a concussion was my most important deal. Taking care of myself, eating right, doing certain treatments.”

Make no mistake, the Falcons are happy to have Schraeder back.

The Falcons were the only NFL team last season to start the same five offensive linemen in all 16 regular-season games, and by the measure of Pro Football Focus the Falcons graded out as the No. 6 line unit in the league.

“Ryan’s been an extremely productive player for us the last couple years,” quarterback Matt Ryan said. “Any time you get a chance to get a good player like that back it’s huge for the team.”

Even left tackle Jake Matthews, who works so far from Schraeder that he rarely hears his voice among all the chatter that goes on among offensive linemen before each NFL snap, is jacked about the boys being back together again. 

“Yeah, for sure,” he said. “Ryan’s a really good player so the linemen are excited to have him back.”

Matthews recalls what it’s like to have the gang together. Schraeder remembers only “parts” of the sequence of events when he got whacked in the back of his somewhat rare, and new, super-sized VICIS helmet.

While out on a wide play, he encountered a Green Bay defensive back who went low to try and chop him down as a lead blocker. Upon going low himself, Schraeder got thumped in the back of the head.

It wasn’t the first time he was hit there, although when it comes to concussions Schraeder has never had one before. At least not officially. 

“Not diagnosed,” said Schraeder, an undrafted free agent from Valdosta State. “Who knows? I’ve seen stars before. We’ve probably all hit our hard too hard before.”

After Schraeder’s concussion, he did not invest a second into studying for his job until Sept. 28, the Friday before the Falcons played the Bills. That’s when he returned to the team, and took in video tape.

He didn’t want to be away from the game that last November led him to sign a five-year, $31.5 million contract extension, but he wasn’t losing his mind while away. Schraeder missed his teammates and routine, but had no anxiety attacks.

The most important thing was to take care of himself.

“Nothing to where it was messing with my mind or anything,” he said of his frustration while in the NFL’s concussion protocol. “I’ve gotten pretty good about my focus. I try not to let it get outside of what I’m trying to do.”

Schraeder feels like he’s blending right back in, and that this week’s practices are no more important for him than if he’d been in a week-by-week routine all along, like last season. It’s just like he took a safety timeout.

“Yeah, well, our whole mindset is that we’re not changing how we’re doing things,” he said. “I’m just going to go out there and get my groove, my rhythm going again. I’m not going to do anything crazy.”

For all the commentary while Schraeder was out for two-plus games about how the right side of the Falcons’ offensive line was off with first-time right guard Wes Schweitzer and sub right tackle Ty Sambrailo, the Falcons still – through Week 5 of the NFL schedule – are ranked as the NFL’s No. 6 unit by Pro Football Focus.

Schraeder’s return figures to help. 

All-Pro center Alex Mack said nothing changed schematically while Schraeder was gone, yet a more established and experienced player is back in the house.

“Ryan is feeling good, he’s back in the game and ... nothing changes,” Mack said. “Our rules are our rules. We usually do the same thing.”

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