Falcons’ Ryan on Pitts: ‘He’s certainly off to a good start’

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has started working with rookie Kyle Pitts in the team’s offseason program.

Ryan said he was not consulted when the Falcons elected to pick the tight end from Florida fourth overall in last month’s NFL draft.

“Those are not my calls, right,” Ryan said on Tuesday. “Not under my job description. I leave that to the folks upstairs. I was just as excited. I found out at pick four that he was coming here.”

Pitts just went through the teams rookie minicamp and is set to keep working in phase two of the organized team activities.

“He’s worked really hard the first couple of weeks,” Ryan said. “I’ve really enjoyed getting to know him. But I was excited that night as well.”

Early in his career, Ryan played with tight end Tony Gonzalez — from 2009 to ’13. Ryan discussed what he learned from Gonzalez and what he can share with a Pitts.

“Tony was a first-ballot hall of famer,” Ryan said. “Arguably the best to ever do it at his position. Certainly, he was the first guy to really change the position into what it is now. So, that’s a lot to live up to and I wouldn’t want to put that pressure on anybody.”

Pitts must take his own approach.

“I think for Kyle, the biggest thing is worrying about getting better,” Ryan said. “Learning the offense and trying to get a little better every day. He has great potential. Great upside, but he (must) focus on daily improvement and try to learn the offense as best he can.”

Falcons rookie tight end Kyle Pitts (8) squares off against Richie Grant during the first day of rookie minicamp Friday, May 14, 2021, in Flowery Branch. (Curtis Compton/Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

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Credit: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Pitts will need to be patient early while he’s learning the playbook.

“If you kind of chip away at it, slowly but surely, the end result will get you to where you want to be,” Ryan said.

Gonzalez would be the first player out on the field before practice. He had a warm-up routine catching passes before every practice.

“There is no short cut to it,” Ryan said. “That’s one of the biggest things that I learned from being around Tony, is that there is really no short cut to being the best at it. You have to work at it. If he can do that, that will set him off in the right direction.”

By not drafting a quarterback, the Falcons tacitly gave Ryan, who has three years remaining on his contract, a vote of confidence and a new weapon.

“You never know how it’s going to go,” Ryan said. “The longer you play in this league you know there are no givens. There are not certainties. I didn’t know which direction it was going to go at that point. Obviously, I’m excited. When you see a guy like Kyle Pitts drafted and the potential that he has and the production that he had in college.”

Ryan was pulling for Pitts to be selected.

“Those are the things that you look at as a quarterback and you’re like man, I’d love to play with a guy like that,” Ryan said. “I’ve been fortunate throughout my career to play with a bunch of guys like that and they are fun. They are great to play with.”

Pitts has also made an early impression on Ryan.

“The thing that I’ve been impressed with for him is just his humility and his ability to want to work in the first couple of weeks,” Ryan said. “I think that’s genuine. I would encourage him to stay that way because to me when you constantly trying to get better and improve, that’s the way you get to where you want to go. He’s certainly off to a good start.”

While Ryan has a new target, the coaching staff must still address the offensive line, which has allowed Ryan to be sacked 131 times over the past three seasons.

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