Ryan Schraeder took his demotion hard.
However, after two games as the backup, the Falcons right tackle is starting to deal with his new reality.
“I’m good,” Schraeder said on Wednesday. “I just have to stay positive and know that better days are ahead. I just have to do what they asked me to do to the best of my ability to finish out this year.”
The Falcons (5-9) are set to play the Panthers (6-8) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
Schraeder was signed as an undrafted college free agent in 2013 after a stellar career at Valdosta State. He was the classic late-bloomer and developed in to an NFL starter. He signed a five-year, $34 million contract extension in 2016.
Two games ago, Schraeder was benched against the Packers. He played four special teams plays in the loss. He played three offensive snaps and six on special teams in the win over the Cardinals last week after making 72 starts.
The Falcons started Ty Sambrailo at right tackle the past two games.
“They just kind of told me that they were going to make a change and that they cared about me,” Schraeder said. “They felt they needed to do that. So, I just accepted it and went right along with it.”
After helping the Falcons get to Super Bowl LI as a starter, Schraeder said that dealing with the benching has been difficult.
“It’s not easy,” Schraeder said. “I’m on the rise now. I’m doing better. I just try to stay focused and just try to work on things I need to get better at.”
Schraeder was not having one of his best seasons. He had trouble against the Steelers’ T.J. Watt and the Saints’ Cam Jordan in particular.
“From what I was told, we’ll find out more after the season and just take it from there,” Schraeder said.
Schraeder is scheduled to make base salaries of $6.25 million in 2019, $5.75 in 2020 and $6 million in 2021. But after the demotion the Falcons have signaled they may consider him a cap casualty or at the least a candidate to have his contract restructured.
Schraeder wants to keep playing in the NFL.
“I still feel like I can play,” Schraeder said. “I feel like I’ve got some gas in the tank. I feel like a good offseason, getting some rest and getting my confidence back up, I’ll be good.”
Schraeder, who’ll turn 31 in May, said he’s generally healthy.
“I don’t’ have any specific injuries,” Schraeder said. “I have played in the NFL for six years now and I’ve played physical. Things bother you, but nothing that needs surgery or anything at this point.”
Schraeder, who’s 6-foot-7 and 300 pounds, believes he could play inside at guard if needed.
“I think I could,” Schraeder said when asked if he could play guard. “It’s a little bit different. Things happen quicker. I think it would be easier in pass protection, but as far as everything else, the run game, I don’t know.”
He noted that former Falcons right tackles Tyson Clabo and Garrett Reynolds also played some guard.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn said guard wasn’t an option for Schraeder for this season.
“We consider everything,” Quinn said. “But not right now in that case.”
Schraeder’s play will be re-evaluated after the season.
The Falcons traded a fifth-round pick for Sambrailo to serve as the swing tackle in 2017. He’d been practicing well.
“We felt like he had warranted some playing time,” Quinn said. “When we got into the game we liked the results of that. So Ryan is still up, still active and in this game, we’ll go to the same scenario where he’s getting reps at right as well.”
In addition to replacing Schraeder, the Falcons benched right guard Ben Garland in favor of veteran Zane Beadles. However, against the Cardinals, Garland and Beadles split the snaps.
Quinn was impressed with how both players handled the demotions.
“Both of them are true pros and they want to do – always being in the front and leaders, those two guys really tough, hard nose competitors,” Quinn said. “So we say man, hey we’re going to take a look at some other guys and obviously we’re keeping you in the mix and we’re trying to find other ways we can utilize Ben. ... By no means are we saying you’re out and not going back in.
“Not the message that a player wants to hear, but that’s our obligation, to be honest, and fair with him to say we’re going to give a couple other guys some looks.”
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