Matt Ryan wants to return, optimistic about Falcons’ future

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

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Falcons QB Matt Ryan offers thoughts on staying with the team

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who turns 37 in May and has two years remaining on his contract, was very clear about his future after the regular season ended with 30-20 loss to the Saints on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“I want to be here,” Ryan said. “I believe in this team. The coaching staff, I think, did a great job. I really feel fortunate to have been here for as long as I have. But I’m optimistic. I really am.”

Ryan, who completed his 14th season with the franchise, reiterated his stance when questioned further about his future.

“I want to be here,” Ryan said. “I feel good about this group of guys. This coaching staff. Everybody. The direction that it’s going. I really think that we’re going to make improvements this offseason, continue to grow as a team and be better than we were this year.”

Falcons coach Arthur Smith took umbrage with an unattributed post on Twitter that stated he made it clear to management that he wanted Ryan back for the 2022 season.

“Yeah, I mean, look, I’m not going to -- internet, you can find whatever you want on the internet,” Smith said.

It was pointed out that the was from a long-time NFL reporter.

“Great, I’m not discrediting anyone,” Smith said. “… There is not a football decision that’s made with the Atlanta Falcons without Terry Fontenot and myself collaborating. That’s just absolute nonsense. ... Absolute 100 percent nonsense. It’ll never happen.”

Smith, who calls the Falcons’ plays, was asked if he expected Ryan to return next year.

“Matt knows how we feel about him, but you’re not going to get a hot take from me today to ever back ourselves into a corner,” Smith said. “I don’t care - everything is evaluated every year, and that’s the way it goes in the NFL. To make a grand statement right after a game, we’re all on the same page. Do I have to declare that Kyle Pitts will be our tight end for us next year? You want me to declare that?”

Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson is big supporter of Ryan.

“It’s been fun, man, playing with a Hall of Fame quarterback,” Patterson said on Monday. “It’s awesome. Matt is Matt. That guy never takes a day off. He’s hardworking no matter the score. No matter what the situation of the game is, he goes out and plays his (behind) off each and every week.”

Patterson is set to become a free agent, but wants to return. He’d like to continue playing with Ryan.

“Just his work ethic,” Patterson said. “It doesn’t go unnoticed. As a older guy like me, I see everything. It might not seem like I don’t see a lot of stuff, but I see a lot of (stuff) that goes on, on the field and in the meeting rooms. Everywhere. I like to pay attention to a lot of things. I just love to see the work ethic of other players. It just gives me the motivation to keep grinding.”

Playing behind a weak offensive line, Ryan tossed 20 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. He didn’t pass for more than 4,000 yards for the first time in 10 seasons. He didn’t have his top receiver Calvin Ridley for most of the season.

As the offense sputtered about without a rushing attack, Ryan didn’t pass for 300 yards over the final nine games of the season.

“I’ll say this about Matt, and this is what I preach about Matt,” Smith said. “From the outside looking in, he’s always had a lot invested in the perimeter. There has been a lot of good skill players on the outside the first part of his career, everything.”

Smith mentioned Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Julio Jones by name. The first-year head coach was pleased with how Ryan performed surrounded by less talent.

“We found different ways, put Cordarrelle Patterson out there, tried to do everything we could to win the football game,” Smith said. “Matt proved that he didn’t have to do it with nothing but first rounders out there. I think that says a lot about a quarterback.”

One of the offseason priorities will be to fix the offensive line. Ryan was sacked twice and hit nine times against the Saints. He was sacked 39 times and hit 91 times this season.

Ryan has not been given any assurances that he’ll be back.

“We were playing the season and doing those kind of things,” Ryan said. “Going through a game plan, week to week. I also know that every year is different. That’s the nature of this league. I feel good about it. I really do. I feel like I’m in a good space. Our team is in a good space. We can improve and be better as we move forward.”

Ryan said he is optimistic about the team’s future under Smith.

“Arthur talked a lot about wanting to create a culture,” Ryan said. “I think he’s done a very good job of that. He’s created a tough and physical football team.”

Ryan noted that the Falcons have a young roster.

“There is a lot of growth that could come from that with young players being in those situations,” Ryan said. “Maturity and mental toughness and those kind of things I think a season like this can provide. So, I’m optimistic. I really am.”

Ryan was backed up this season by Josh Rosen and Feleipe Franks. A.J. McCarron was injured in the exhibition season. The Falcons hold the eighth overall pick in the draft, but the quarterback talent pool is projected to be sub-par.

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