Atlanta Falcons 36-year-old quarterback Matt Ryan said he still has more "good years" left and he's been fortunate to play for an organization in which his voice has always been heard -- two important elements as to why he has not become disenchanted like a handful of other quarterbacks in the NFL.
"Everybody's situation is different, but there's definitely been a shift," Ryan said Tuesday of the outspokenness of players like Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and others -- without naming them specifically. "Guys have become more vocal about certain situations."
The clock is ticking on Ryan's career, he acknowledged, but he's still capable of producing while learning yet another new system. New coach Arthur Smith is the third head coach he has played for and is at least the fifth play-designer/play-caller he has dealt with.
"I understand I'm not going to play forever, but I also have a mindset that I'm still playing really well and have a lot of good football in front of me," the four-time Pro Bowler said.
Ryan has been a productive player since being drafted No. 3 overall in 2008. He won AP NFL Most Valuable Player honors in 2016 and routinely is among the league's passing leaders. He said he did hear the "noise" about the club possibly drafting his heir this year. That didn't happen as Smith and new general manager Terry Fontenot gave him another weapon in hybrid tight end Kyle Pitts.
When asked how he would have reacted had the team drafted a quarterback, Ryan said, "I don't know what I would have done." He went on to say, "With a new staff, you never know when there is a transition what's going to happen. … I was told be a vet early in my career, 'You don't own your locker. You rent it.'"
Ryan said he had no pre-draft discussions about the Falcons' plans and didn't know who they were picking until draft weekend. That situation at least has some certainty.
One that doesn't is the future of perennial Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones. The Falcons have listened to trade offers for Jones -- and will continue to do so, according to a source. They don't want to trade Jones the player, but the more than $23 million salary cap hit he carries against a tight cap situation has them listening to teams willing to part with future draft picks, the source added.
Ryan said that he did not want to delve into the team's or Jones' business. He said that Jones is a "great player. He's a hell of a teammate. I love him. We'll see how things shake out, but he's probably impacted my career more significantly than any other player."
As for Pitts, Ryan said the new tight end has really approached learning Smith's new scheme the right way -- by trying to get better each day. Ryan didn't want to make any projections since everyone is just trying to figure out "how to line up," but the veteran quarterback championed Pitts' work ethic and approach.
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