Ryan held a football clinic on behalf of the 15th annual Gatorade Beat the Heat program. He discussed proper hydration and heat safety for athletes to stay safe and maintain peak performance during the hot summer months.
The rule is a direct result of a play in the 2018 NFC Championship game between the Rams and the Saints where the officials missed a pretty obvious pass-interference call on Nickell Robey-Coleman.
The Rams went on to win the game 26-23 and advance to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta.
The Falcons had a similar play in the 2012 NFC title game where wide receiver Roddy White was knocked off his route on the 6-yard line with the game on the line and under the two-minute mark.
White, at the time, said he wasn’t expecting the officials to make that call with the game on the line.
Under the new rule, the play would have been reviewable.
So would it have helped?
“Geez, yes it would have,” Ryan said emphatically. “It would have definitely helped us. It would have helped us, but the same can be said for a lot of teams throughout the course of history.”
The Falcons were defeated by Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers 28-24. If the play was called, the Falcons would have had four more downs, but still needed a touchdown.
“I understand,” Ryan said. “I feel the pain.”
Ryan also reflected on the completion of the offseason for the Falcons, who are set to open training camp July 22.
“I thought it was good,” Ryan said. “I think, No. 1, it’s good to get guys healthy. We had guys who had surgeries throughout the season, after the season, guys that were coming back and rehabbing through certain things.”
The rehabbing period was important for the Falcons, who had starters miss a collective 80 starts last season, which led to the disappointing 7-9 season.
“That’s always important,” Ryan said. “I think those guys approached that with the right mindset, which was impressive to see as a teammate because it’s not the easiest thing to go through. I thought that was good.”
Although some key players such as wide receiver Julio Jones (foot), defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (precautionary), middle linebacker Deion Jones (foot) and free safety Ricardo Allen (left Achilles) didn’t practice, Ryan felt the team performed well.
“In our practices, we were productive during the OTA period,” Ryan said. “We looked fast. That’s the vibe I felt with our team. They were moving really well.
“We’ve got some young guys with some speed. So, I’ve been impressed. I’ve liked the way that everybody has approached it.”
Ryan is expecting some natural growth within the team.
“Younger guys that played for us a bunch last year seemed more mature and farther along with where they are at, both in our offense and on our defense,” Ryan said. “That’s going to bode well for us as we move forward.”
Ryan, who will have a chance to eclipse 300 touchdown passes (295 now) and 50,000 yards (46,720) in 2019, felt the reunion with his former offensive coordinators Dirk Koetter and Mike Mularkey went well.
Koetter, who was the offensive coordinator from 2012-14, replaced Steve Sarkisian. Mularkey, the offensive coordinator from 2008-11, is the new tight ends coach.
“There is an obvious comfort level with both of those guys from the time that I spent with them before and the success that we had with both,” Ryan said. “I’m excited to have both of them back.”
Ryan believes the veteran coaches will help improve the offense.
“They are really good coaches and they know how to get the best out of their guys, which is awesome,” Ryan said. “I think they bring a lot of knowledge from the offensive side in terms of game-planning, in terms of play-calling. They are going to be really good for us. I felt like it was really good to re-connect in a way with them. I’m excited about working with them moving forward.”
If the rebuilt offensive line works and running back Devonta Freeman returns to Pro Bowl form after two down seasons, the Falcons will have a chance at potency.
“We’ve got a lot of guys, a lot of really good players,” Ryan said. “You know, most importantly, we have a lot of guys that just want to win and do whatever they have to do within our offense to give us a chance to win.
“That’s rare to have superstars like Julio or Devonta, Calvin (Ridley), or Mohamed (Sanu) or Austin (Hooper) that are all unselfish guys that care about winning first and foremost. I’m excited about it. I think we can be a really good offense and a really good football team.”
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan with the students at the Samuel Jones Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta on Thursday. (By D. Orlando Ledbetter/Dledbetter@ajc.com)
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