Flowery Branch, Ga. - Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan recently signed a five year contract extension putting him among the highest paid quarterbacks in the NFL. He begins the 2013 season against a fellow $100M quarterback in Drew Brees.
Ryan spoke with the New Orleans media Wednesday via teleconference and the following are his comments, as transcribed by the New Orleans Saints:
What are your overall thoughts about the game against the Saints this Sunday?
"I think everybody is really excited to get the regular season going. Obviously it is a place we are very familiar with, (and) a team we are very familiar with. We know it's going to be a tough challenge for us down there, (it) always is. There are always a well-coached, tough, physical football team and we are going to have to handle the environment when we get down there, but I think that is something that our veterans can help some of the younger guys come along. We are going to practice hard all week so we are ready to go come Sunday noon central time."
Are you a little curious to see what they will throw you defensively with a new scheme?
"Definitely. It is one of those things early in the year, it's always a little more difficult when you are going against a new coordinator. We have obviously played against Rob Ryan before and know the challenges that his scheme presents and certainly there are some. There is nothing you can do about it. We will have to make adjustments as we see during the game and get a feel for what they are trying to do and who is going to be out there. That's the case for everybody this time of the year."
Were you a little surprised this was the first game on the 2013 schedule for both clubs?
"No, I'm never surprised with the way the schedule shakes out. It's different every year and like I said, I think everyone is just excited to get this season underway."
How do you think the Saints defense will respond after being the worst defense in NFL history last year?
"They have talent. They have talented players and they are a very prideful bunch. I know that every time we played against them it has been a physical matchup and a tough matchup. I expect them to play very well, I really do. It's going to take our best and a really good effort from us to go out there and be successful."
What can you tell us about Steven Jackson and the impact he has on your team?
"Steven has been great for our football team. He is a great leader. Obviously, he has been an incredible player for his tenure in the league. He is a huge addition for us. I think on the field, his diverse skill set adds to our offense. But, even more so off the field, just his work ethic, his experience and his leadership has been huge for our locker room. I think guys have been very impressed and have tried to emulate some of the things that he does."
What stands out to you that has made Drew Brees so successful for a long period here in New Orleans?
"I think it is his work ethic and I say that from watching him from afar. I think he is always extremely well-prepared. It's like every week he is extremely consistent and he knows how to attack defenses. He is aggressive, but he is also, during the offseason, is an extremely hard worker. So I think there is no shortcut to that kind of success. I think you have to work towards it and he has certainly done that and been an incredible player."
You and Drew both received lofty contracts the last two years; do you feel a burden on you to play up to that contract?
"I can only speak for myself, but I set high expectations for my own performance in the way that I work. I think at the end of the day if you are worrying about what everybody else thinks, it's taking away from you being the best player that you can be. For me, I am going to continue to work and prepare the same way that I always have in trying (to find) ways to get better, improve, and work harder. I'm going to focus on that and then try and let all the other stuff take care of itself. That's been the way I have approached my career and that's the way it's going to be the way I continue to approach it."
How did you approach this offseason after being so close to the Super Bowl last year?
"I think it's important to learn from your past experiences whether they be good or bad and try and use that as motivation moving forward. I think guys have done a great job of that. You don't want to be consumed with what we did last year because obviously, it has no bearing on what's going to happen this season. For the most part during the offseason, training, and training camp, it has provided the motivation that we need, that we needed at those times, but I think for everybody and specifically myself, I think the exciting part is what's in front of us, the opportunity that is in front of us this season. I think we learned from it. I think we used it as motivation, but I think we are on to what we need to do now."
Is the Mercedes-Benz Superdome one of the louder crowds to deal with?
"It's definitely one of the most intense and one of the loudest venues in the NFL and we know that. I've been down there five times now and played down there five times and I know every time it's loud and it's hostile. With the veteran guys that we have, we understand what it takes to go down there and execute at a high level and we need to be at our best."
Can you talk about the comparison to the Falcons Saints game in 2006 after the reopening of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to the game this Sunday?
"It's tough to compare the returning of a coach and what happened with Hurricane Katrina. I think they are two different things. Certainly I watched that game in 2006, I think as did everyone in the country. It was an awesome win for that organization at that time and I think it kind of lifted everybody's spirits. At this point, I think they are two different things. We are just going to prepare the same way we always do to go out on a road game and prepare for a tough road test. We are going to try and do everything we can during the course of the week to have ourselves ready to go with whatever shakes out on Sunday. We know it's going to be loud. We know it's going to be tough. And we know it's going to be a 60 minute football game. That's really where our mindset is at."
Can you talk about not having Todd McClure back as your center?