Activist Ryan ready to lead change on and off the field

Editor’s note: Leading to the start of NFL training camp, we’ll take a look at the Falcons’ coaching staff and position groups. Rookies reported last Tuesday. QBs and injured veterans reported on Thursday and the rest of the veterans are set to report on Tuesday.  Today: Quarterbacks

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has had a busy offseason.

Ryan has participated in the team’s offseason virtual program, donated $600,000 of his money to different causes, held a radiothon, went to California to workout, spoke out against racial and social injustices and then even had time to run some smack with a couple of those barstool pranksters.

Now, it’s time to get down to business.

Ryan, 35, who’s set to enter his 13th season in the NFL, reported to start the COVID-19 testing procedures at the team’s facilities on Thursday.

Quarterbacks and injured veterans reported on Thursday. The rookies reported for testing last Tuesday. The remaining veterans will report Tuesday. Matt Schaub, Kurt Benkert and Danny Etling are the three other quarterbacks on the Falcons roster. The players must have two negative test results before being allowed into the team facilities.

After the first test, the players must self-quarantine for two days then take a second test. If both test are negative, the players will be allowed to enter the facility and start daily testing.

Back in March at the start of the shutdown from the coronavirus pandemic, Ryan donated $100,000 to Atlanta-based organizations to help with relief. His donation was equally distributed to two charitable organizations: Atlanta Community Food Bank, which provides foods to the needy, and Giving Kitchen, which offers emergency assistance to food service workers.

Later in June, as the global protest started in wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota and the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Ryan made a $500,000 donation to help raise $2 million to help “Advancing the Lives – ATL – of the Black Community.”

“It’s taken some time, but people are becoming more active in terms of their response to it,” Ryan said. “(Colin Kaepernick’s) protest is being heard at this point. I might have taken too long.”

Ryan has done most of his community work is relative obscurity. Over his career, he’s raised millions with his golf tournament for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and has worked with the Boys and Girls Clubs around the city.

“That’s more of where my mindset has gone to,” Ryan said. “To not just to sit on the sideline and silently have people’s backs. I think the time has come where silence isn’t good enough.”

Ryan’s was impacted by not only the Floyd video, but from discussions with his teammates over the years.

“One of the things that keeps coming up in discussions with teammates, with friends is police brutality,” Ryan said. “Certainly, looking into ways that you can address that and having discussions with people that know more about that than I do. But that’s one of the things that continues to resurface in conversations. That’s definitely one of the consistencies of where people would like change.”

He found the Floyd video disturbing.

“That George Floyd video was incredibly tough to watch,” Ryan said. “I mean, it’s watching that, the number of different things that have come up, having talks with guys about this for the better part of 10 years, friends and teammates, I think it’s just a culmination of all of it.”

Ryan has not announced how the funds will be distributed.

“My hope is that to make a real impact on the city of Atlanta and this community,” Ryan said. “Trying to make a start at improving the current climate and the current situation. There is a lot to be done, but I’m hoping this could be a good start for us.

“We are getting close to that $2 million point. I just can’t thank everybody that’s committed money and time and just reached out. It means a lot to me. I’m committed to doing the best job that I can with this and make the biggest impact that we can make.”

Ryan’s place in Falcons lore is secure.

He was named to the AJC’s Mount Rushmore and to the team’s 2010-19 All-Decade team this offseason. He’s only the second quarterback to guide the franchise to the Super Bowl and is the only one to be named the league MVP (2016). Chris Chandler was the quarterback during the 1998 Super Bowl season.

Ryan welcomed Tom Brady, who signed with Tampa Bay this offseason, to the NFC South.

“It’s going to be a tough division, no question about it,” Ryan said. “Tom is a great player. Anytime you add a guy who has won that many championships, won that many games, you know he’s going to be tough to beat.”

The Falcons split with the Bucs last season. They needed an interception return for a touchdown in overtime last season to get a win in the regular-season finale.

“Their team was tough last year,” Ryan said. “Their defense was really, really good. Real tough to go against. I expect them to be really good (and a) tough competitor. Same with New Orleans. Same with Carolina. The division has been tough for a long time.”

Ryan said it would not be wise to count out the Falcons in the NFC South.

“I think it’s about us, though,” Ryan said. “The mindset is that we have to have, is that we (must) have ourselves prepared and be ready to go.”

Ryan has seen most of the offseason rankings that mostly place the Falcons in third behind the Saints and Buccaneers. The Saints have won the past three division titles and won by six games last season in an NFL built on parity.

“I have the belief that we are right there with all of those teams,” Ryan said. “They have to deal with us as well. We create a number of issues for these teams to go against. If we play our best, we can go toe-to-toe with anyone, any week.”

While making the offseason rounds, Ryan was asked who was the best quarterback in the NFC, which now has Brady, Drew Brees and Teddy Bridgewater in Charlotte.

Ryan, not one to brag or over state things, caught some folks off guard when he proclaimed himself King of the South on the Barstool Sports Podcast, Pardon My Take.

“I think currently, yeah, I’ll go with myself,” Ryan said.

Ryan hesitated when asked to project the Falcons’ win total.

“I can’t do that, I’m going to get roasted for it,” Ryan said, before he went with 12 wins.

Brady, who turns 43 on August 3, and Brees (41) are much older than Ryan, but haven’t shown any clear sign of slowing down. Bridgewater is trying to resurrect his once-promising career.

Ryan is looking forward to working with running back Todd Gurley and tight end Hayden Hurst, the team’s two key offseason acquisitions on offense.

He believes the team can continue on from the 6-2 record in the second half of last season.

“So, it is about cleaning up our style of football,” Ryan said. “Making sure that we are taking care of the football offensively, being explosive and scoring points.

“Then on the defensive side of the ball, getting off the field and creating turnovers. It’s really as simple as that. Not easy to do. We’ve got the right formula.”

The Falcons are putting a lot of stock wins over New Orleans and San Francisco.

“We just need to execute it like we are capable of because when we do….when you look at the second half of the season and what we were able to do, we were extremely competitive and right up there with the teams that were going deep into the playoffs,” Ryan said. “So, I think that is more of the team that we are capable of being.”

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