Ryan impressed with Falcons’ progress
by Charles Odum
Associated Press Sports Writer
June 12, 2013 12:12 AM | 877 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is turning the focus away from contract negotiations, instead choosing to set sights on preparations for the 2013 season.
<BR>Associated Press photo
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is turning the focus away from contract negotiations, instead choosing to set sights on preparations for the 2013 season.
Associated Press photo
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FLOWERY BRANCH — Matt Ryan said Tuesday his focus is on his new teammates and a new season and he’s not fretting about the status of his new contract.

Cornerback Desmond Trufant, the Falcons’ first-round pick, made his offseason training activities debut Tuesday after completing his classes at the University of Washington. Ryan said Trufant made a good first impression.

Ryan said another newcomer, three-time Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson, has shown he is a leader in his first offseason with the Falcons.

Predictably, Ryan said little about his contract status.

General manager Thomas Dimitroff said recently he hopes to have a new deal with Ryan before the season. The quarterback’s six-year, $66 million contract expires after the 2013 season.

Ryan said he’s confident Dimitroff and his agent,

Tom Condon, will reach an agreement.

“You know what, I leave that to my agents and the front office,” Ryan said. “Those guys will get that stuff done.”

Condon could not be reached for comment.

Ryan is expected join the list of quarterbacks signing milestone long-term deals. Drew Brees, Tony Romo and Joe Flacco have recently signed five- or six-year deals worth at least $100 million.

Ryan set career highs with 32 touchdown passes and 4,719 yards passing as he led the Falcons to a 13-3 record in 2012. Atlanta beat Seattle for Ryan’s first postseason win. The Falcons lost to San Francisco in the NFC championship game.

The Falcons hopes of making another run at a Super Bowl berth were boosted by the team’s addition of Jackson and the decision by tight end Tony Gonzalez to postpone his retirement plans another year.

Jackson leads all active players with 10,135 yards rushing.

“Steven Jackson has come in and he’s a leader,” Ryan said. “He’s fun to play with and fun to work with and he’s a guy who really cares. I think that’s been good, too.

“I think for him it’s taken a little time to get adjusted, but when he knows what to do he’s a really, really good player and he’s really smart, too. He’s picked up a lot of stuff really quick. He’s dedicated. He’s one of the few guys who has called me when he’s not here and picked my brain about certain stuff that we’re doing and I think that says a lot about him.”

Trufant’s arrival was delayed until he completed his academic work at Washington. Coach Mike Smith said another draft pick, tight end Levine Toilolo, is expected to complete his spring semester at Stanford on Tuesday and join the Falcons’ OTAs Wednesday.

Trufant could start as a rookie.

“He’s an athletic kid, that’s for sure,” Ryan said. “He moves pretty well. That was the thing I noticed most of all during one-on-ones.”

Smith said he has given Trufant and other rookies an overload of information.

“I’m sure his head is spinning,” Smith said.

“We want to try to bombard their brains through the offseason. ... That’s always how we’ve done it. Let’s see how they handle all of it at first and not bring them along slowly.”

Jackson and Trufant are important additions, but Ryan remains the face of the franchise. After five seasons he trails only Steve Bartkowski on the Falcons’ career lists for yards passing and touchdowns. Bartkowski threw 154 touchdown passes from 1975 to 1985. Ryan, who has 127, could pass the mark in 2013.

“Certainly it’s great to be in the company with Bart,” Ryan said. “He obviously was an awesome player in his time, probably the premier quarterback to ever play here in Atlanta. But he’s also a great guy and I’ve gotten to know him well and he’s been very helpful to me in my career thus far.

“It’s great to be mentioned in that breath but at the same time it’s not something that you worry about or think about. For me, I’m constantly focused on trying to do my job the best I can and if you’re constantly worried about statistics and records and all of that it takes away from being able to do the job the best you can.”

NOTES: Vanderbilt coach James Franklin and his defensive assistants visited Tuesday’s practice. Franklin said college and NFL schemes are not as different as in past eras so he can learn from watching the Falcons work under defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. ... Among veteran players not attending were Gonzalez, receiver Roddy White and cornerback Asante Samuel. ... The Falcons have mandatory minicamp June 18-20. Smith said he expects linebackers Sean Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas, who have worked on the side with a trainer during OTAs while recovering from injuries, to be cleared for the minicamp.

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