Ryan ready for 12th season, Jones’ deal to get done

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Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan gives his thoughts on Sunday's game against the Vikings. Video by D. Orlando Ledbetter.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan also is waiting to celebrate the news of wide receiver Julio Jones’ pending contract extension.

“Well, it would mean everything to me,” Ryan said Wednesday. “He’s been such a huge part of my career up until this point. He’s been so consistent. His production is through the roof. Obviously, he’s an unbelievable teammate. He’s a great friend.”

Jones, who’s scheduled to speak to the media Thursday, was at practice getting ready for the Falcons opener against Vikings at 1 p.m. Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

“I’m hopeful that it will get done,” Ryan said. “I’m sure it will. I’d love to play with him my entire career. He’s one of the best to every do it. I’m certainly lucky to have played with him for as long as I have. I hope there is a lot more in the tank for both of us.”

Falcons coach Dan Quinn gave Jones credit for not making his contract negotiations a distraction for the team.

“I think it’s because of the player,” Quinn said. “His relationship with his teammates. His humility. With the guys, he’s not let it become a distraction to anybody else.”

Quinn understands that there is plenty of interest in Jones getting his deal done.

“Outside of the walls, I recognize that it’s a big topic,” Quinn said. “There are fantasy points out there. There is a lot going on. Inside the walls that is not what we discuss. His communication and his involvement with receivers and quarterbacks, it’s been a big deal. That’s been pretty consistent for him the whole time throughout.”

Owner Arthur Blank stated that he’d like for the deal to be done before the start of the season.

“I’m not involved in those conversations, but I won’t give a third side to it,” Quinn said. “Let’s just hope they keep working and get (this deal done.)”

Quinn admitted that he’s been bugging general manger Thomas Dimitroff about the contract extension.

“What do you have for me,” Quinn said he’ll ask Dimitroff.

While Jones’ contract situation hangs over the team, Ryan, who’s set to enter his 12th season in the NFL, believes the offense is ready after going 7-9 last season.

“I feel good about our (exhibition) season work that we put in,” Ryan said. “It feels good to get into our normal routine to get ready for a game. I thought today’s meetings and practice were a solid start for us. I think that we are all excited that the regular season is finally here.”

The Falcons’ lineup for Sunday is not set.

The left guard and right tackle positions have not been determined and Matt Gono, the potential starter at right tackle, was limited in practice with a back injury. Rookie Kaleb McGary and veteran Ty Sambrailo are other options.

Also, Jones did not play in any of the five exhibition games, and running back Devonta Freeman was used sparingly. Fullback Keith Smith signed Monday, but vowed to be ready if needed.

Ryan acknowledges that the unit will be trying to put together some things in Minneapolis for the first time.

“That’s kind of the way it is every year,” Ryan said. “At this time of the year, I think that ever year is different. You are a work in progress. You’re trying to find out the way with the guys that you have to be the best team that we can be.”

They process will be ongoing.

“It’s going to be a constant process for us throughout the year,” Ryan said. “We’ve got a couple of spots where we’ve got some new guys. We’re expecting them to play well. They’ve had a really good camp.”

Ryan is elated that Freeman is back after he played in only two games last season. The running back has recovered from knee/groin injuries and sports hernia surgery.

“His production when he’s been healthy, he is as good as anybody,” Ryan said. “He’s really effective for us in the run game. He’s got the ability to create explosive plays even when a run is maybe blocked for three or four yards, his ability to make people miss, to maintain balance after contact, it’s special.”

Ryan also noted that Freeman is a weapon in the passing attack.

“We rely on him to create matchup problems for us going linebackers and safeties,” Ryan said. “We always feel like that’s an advantage, that makes us better.”

Rookie Chris Lindstrom, who was the 14th player take in the first round of the NFL draft, is set to start at right guard and if McGary or Gono starts, the Falcons will be young on the right side against a stout Minnesota defensive line.

Ryan said he plans to just tell them to relax and “trust your training,” he said.

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