Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan jumped on the PFT PM show with Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk and discussed a number of subjects ranging from new Falcons running back Todd Gurley, the NFL Top 100 rankings, offseason preparations amid the COVID-19 pandemic and more.
The Falcons' most prominent offseason addition is Gurley, the former Los Angeles Rams running back who was named the Associated Press' Offensive Player of the Year in 2017.
Regarding his new teammate, Ryan said:
"He's been one of the most dynamic players when he's on the field in our league. (He's) certainly a game-changer. I had the opportunity to work out with him a little bit and spend just a little bit of time with him. He seems to be in a really good place. He looked great on the field. Has been working extremely hard to get himself in position to be ready to go. I'm excited we have him. I think he adds a lot to what we can do."
The ex-Georgia Bulldog dominated over a two-year stretch from 2017 to 2018, amassing 3,924 scrimmage yards and 40 touchdowns for a dynamic Rams team that made the playoffs twice and Super Bowl once.
Gurley struggled in 2019, rushing for just 3.8 yards per carry, but he still managed to eclipse 1,000 scrimmage yards for the fifth straight season and scored 14 touchdowns.
The Rams released the 25-year-old after the season, but it didn't take long for the running back to find a new home in Atlanta, who also opted for a backfield change and released former starter Devonta Freeman.
Ryan and the Falcons are looking to improve upon a 7-9 season that started poorly with a 1-7 first half. The ex-Boston College star led the league with 408 pass completions and connected on 66.2 percent of his passes for 26 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, but the 2016 NFL MVP did not find his way onto the recently released NFL Top 100, a player-selected list of the best 100 players in the game today.
"That kind of stuff doesn't change my day," Ryan said when asked about the omission.
"It's never been...bulletin board material (for me) or anything like that. I know what I can do. I know what I'm capable of doing. I feel like every week I gave our team a great chance to win. If we get the ball late in the game, I know I have what it takes to finish it out. I don't worry about that stuff. I just focus on trying to do the job the best I can."
Three Falcons made the list: wide receiver Julio Jones (No. 11), Gurley (No. 51) and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (No. 91).
Like every other team, Atlanta is preparing for this season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has already caused plenty of changes in the football calendar. Of note, training camps across the country are opening with COVID-19 tests as opposed to typical meetings and practices.
The NFL has also eliminated preseason games, and Ryan spoke about that decision:
"It will be different. I kind of like the (exhibition) season games to be able to get out there and knock some of the rust off ... and be able to go through it. Go through your routine. Make sure that you're doing the things you need to do and make sure you have things ironed out. We're not going to have that luxury. But I think (Falcons coach) Dan Quinn is putting together a really good schedule to try and simulate as much as we can on our own what that experience is going to be like.
"For a guy like me, I'm in Year 13. I think it's going to be easier for a guy like myself having been through so many different situations, so many years, so many games played and feeling comfortable in those. But for our rookies and young guys who have not had that experience, I think we've got to have to help them out as much as we can and try and make them feel as comfortable as possible. Because when we kick it off against Seattle Week 1, that game is just as important as Week 17. It means just as much."
When Week 1 starts, Ryan and the Falcons will look to topple a tough division that includes the defending NFC South champion New Orleans Saints, Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and a Carolina Panthers team featuring All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey and a new head coach and quarterback in Matt Rhule and Teddy Bridgewater, respectively.
The Saints and Bucs are receiving Super Bowl hype, but Ryan is ignoring the noise as he looks to prep his own team.
"It's one of those things, who cares about anybody else. We have to care of our own business...It doesn't bother me that other people are talked about...I don't worry about it too much. I try and make sure that we are focused on taking care of our own business."
The Falcons' first organized game will now be Week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks at home at 1 p.m. ET.