Flowery Branch – A year ago minicamp for Matt Ryan was about Matt Ryan, who was just trying to show he belonged in the NFL. This one was different. The world now knows Matty Ice belongs, and the Iceman himself is focused on his team.
“Last year you were just trying to keep your head above water,” Ryan said Sunday, the Falcons having completed their weekend drills. “I certainly don’t want to sound like I have it all figured out — because I don’t — but this year it’s more about fine-tuning.”
A quick way to get Ryan to try and change the subject: Ask about last season. The greatest rookie quarterback in NFL history doesn’t care to revisit his rookie year — at least not yet. “It’ll be be nice to look back on when you’re done playing,” he said. “But right now it was just a good start. It’s something to have in the bank.”
When he does recall 2008 — hey, writers are paid to be persistent — does he think first about successes or failures? “A little bit of both. You have to learn from your mistakes: ‘Why did I make that mistake?’ But you also have to learn from what you did well: ‘Why did this work?’ You can’t just focus on the negative plays, or the positive.”Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
Then this: “At this position, you have to have no conscience. You’re going to make some mistakes, but you can’t let them weigh on you.”
If he’d dared to imagine the ideal rookie season, would what became reality have come close to the dream? Ryan: “We would’ve won a couple of more games down the stretch, with us being in the playoffs. It was a good first year, but that’s done.”
Regarding minicamp, Ryan said, “It was a chance to work on the things I need to do better.” Such as? “Decision-making. There are two things you have to do as a quarterback — make good decisions and be accurate with your throws — but making good decisions is No. 1. I want to make decisions quicker and better.”
Ryan might or might not have a better season in 2009 than in 2008, but if he doesn’t it won’t be for lack of trying. This, as we know, is a young man — he turns 24 on Saturday — of unflagging focus. Asked about his new playmate Tony Gonzalez, Ryan pointed to the field, where practice had technically ended.
“You see six guys still out there, and four are doing interviews,” Ryan said. “But those two are working. [Indeed, Gonzalez and another Falcon were hitting a blocking sled.] He’s teaching young guys how to work. It’s not by chance — there’s a reason he’s the greatest tight end of all time. He’s a huge pickup for us.”
What would be reasonable goals for Matty Ice and the 2009 Falcons? “It’s the same as last year: We’re not worried about outside expectations. But we want to win our division and give ourselves a chance. That’s it. There are no personal goals.”
Last question: What’s with the hair? “Aerodynamics,” Ryan said, and then he laughed. “I just felt like going shorter. It’s easy to maintain.”
He laughed again. “I’m just happy it still grows back.”