Matthew Bergeron learns the language - on and off the field - quickly

Atlanta Falcons guard Matthew Bergeron (65) participates in a drill during rookie minicamp at Atlanta Falcons Training Facility, Friday, May 12, 2023, in Flowery Branch. (Hyosub Shin /



Atlanta Falcons guard Matthew Bergeron (65) participates in a drill during rookie minicamp at Atlanta Falcons Training Facility, Friday, May 12, 2023, in Flowery Branch. (Hyosub Shin /

Falcons guard Matthew Bergeron, days after making his first NFL start, stood on the practice field in Flowery Branch and spoke with a reporter who was visiting just for him. All her inquiries to the Syracuse product were in French. All of Bergeron’s answers were in the same language.

After several minutes, he turned to American reporters, laughed and acknowledged he could switch back to English for their questions. Bergeron, a Quebec native, truly prides himself on versatility.

“When I first got (to Syracuse), I’d ask people to repeat themselves because I couldn’t quite understand (their English),” he said. “At Syracuse, you’d have guys from Florida with a certain accent. People from the West Coast with a certain accent. So processing everything was kind of tough, but now I’ve picked it up fast.”

The Falcons hope his adjustment to the NFL goes as swiftly. They wanted Bergeron enough that they leaped up the board in the second round to acquire him at No. 38 overall. They saw his power, his mean streak, his experience, and a story that makes him that much easier to believe in.

Bergeron played hockey in his youth, which he said benefited his balance as a football player. He became the No. 2 Canadian football recruit in the class of 2019, committing to Syracuse where he played every game as a freshman, making five starts at right tackle. A year later, he started every game at tackle (three on the right, eight on the left). In 2021 and 2022, he remained Syracuse’s blindside protector.

And so Bergeron came to the NFL with 39 starts under his belt as a tackle. Hours after the Falcons took him, coach Arthur Smith declared Bergeron was moving inside. That wasn’t a surprise; he was projected at guard in the NFL and impressed there during Senior Bowl week.

Still, it’s been a transition. Bergeron made his first start last week in the Falcons’ preseason tie against the Bengals, playing 23 snaps.

“I did some good things, some bad things,” Bergeron said. “You have to learn from it. It was a crazy experience, being from Canada and only having one offer out of high school, then to play at that level, play in Mercedes-Benz, which is one of the best stadiums in the NFL. It was crazy to have my family there, too. The experience as a whole was really special to me.”

Smith: “He did some decent things and there are some things he needs to work on, but that’s a tough-minded player. I enjoy coaching him.”

Bergeron, listed 6-foot-5, 318 pounds, should fit beautifully along this offensive line. He’s a punisher in the run game, which is exactly what Smith is seeking for this rush-based offense headlined by first-round running back Bijan Robinson. The experience should help Bergeron as he begins his professional career.

“It hasn’t hit me yet (all that I’ve accomplished),” Bergeron said. “Maybe when I look back after the season. But I’m excited for that first – I don’t want to look past the last preseason game – but just being able to be here, talking with (reporters), it’s very important for me. Everything I’ve been through at Syracuse. I’m a hard-working person. I learn fast and pick up on things fast. That’s how I was able to speed up the process of coming in as a left tackle and moving to left guard. Everything sped up. Now I’m with the first team, taking first team reps.”

The Falcons will maintain their optimism for Bergeron, who’s set to start at left guard Week 1 against the Panthers. Before the draft, NFL analyst Lance Zierlein compared him with Browns All-Pro Joel Bitonio, noting Bergeron has “Pro Bowl-caliber run-blocking potential.”

Consider it a perfect match of player and team.