Atlanta Falcons  

 

Falcons' Ryan leads way for teammates during lockout

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Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick: Have you all been paying attention?

As the lockout lingers and you unsigned draft picks wait, unable to meet with coaches, break down film, get in minicamp work, or finalize contracts, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Josh Freeman, Mark Sanchez, Chad Henne, Matt Ryan and other quarterbacks have organized on-field workouts. Teammates are showing up, too.

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Maybe not in droves, but they're showing up, in large part because they're taking cues from the leader that's now their coach. That's what is special about the position. A tight end or wide receiver or linebacker could make the same plea, but his range isn't as wide-reaching as the quarterback.

Ryan proved as much Tuesday during an hour-long, seven-on-seven session with roughly 25 Falcons teammates at an Atlanta-area high school practice field. While Ryan said he had help in organizing the workout -- there have been others, but this was the first time defensive players were involved -- players followed his lead, literally.

Ryan was among the first group of players to arrive and the last to leave. While several players filed out after a spirited workout, Ryan led a charge of a half-dozen players in 100-yard runs in 92-degree heat. He entered the workout with a play list scripted and was the voice that was heard throughout drills except for the routine woofing between players.

"One of the great things about our organization and our team is guys keep in touch all the time, so it's not something like 'I haven't talked to you in three months, it's time to come show up,'" Ryan said. "We talked initially that if we got to this time of the year and were still locked out we'd get together a little bit and work on some of the things and get our timing back and knock off some of the rust and we've started to do that."

While the Falcons players have been at it for a while, word of the rival Saints organizing for team workouts helped spur the quasi minicamp. Safety Thomas DeCoud said he was training at an Atlanta-area workout center when one of his training partners -- a member of the Saints -- got a call from Brees, who said workouts would soon commence and that he needed to get to New Orleans.

DeCoud said the unnamed Saints player got moving right away, so he picked up his phone and began suggesting the Falcons, who've traded the top spot in the NFC South with the Saints the past two seasons, keep pace. Ryan spearheaded things, just like Sanchez, Rivers, Freeman, Brees, Henne, and others have. In the Falcons' case, even free agents Mike Peterson and Stephen Nicholas and unsigned rookie Akeem Dent -- all linebackers -- took part, even though an injury could seriously affect their ability to earn another (or in Dent's case, a first) paycheck.

There's a reason why it's easy to think that when the lockout finally ends, those teams that have veteran leadership at quarterback will be more successful than teams that are unstable at that key spot. During a unique offseason, players are rallying around these guys. That only reinforces what they'll do when things get tense with 2 minutes left in a game.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.

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