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Matt Ryan, at 30, says he’s just hitting his stride


For most running backs, the 30th birthday has become the witching hour. For quarterbacks, it’s becoming the point at which a career enters a new level of possibly high-end performance.

I think I’m just hitting my stride,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan tells Alex Marvez of “I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life at 30. I feel like I’ve learned so much about myself, my body, my game from the last eight years. I feel like that experience is going to serve me well in my 30s. I feel like I’m throwing it better than I ever have, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. My best ball is still in front of me.”

For quarterbacks, the sweet spot happens when the brain has developed a thorough understanding of the game and the body can still put that knowledge to good use.

For Ryan, there’s also an element of veteran leadership that resulted in him getting a total of 27 Falcons players together in Fort Lauderdale for a three-day passing camp. Falling during the period on the calendar when teams can’t be involved in such activities, players are allowed to set up such events on a strictly voluntary basis. Ryan’s ability to get so many to agree to come shows that they are willing to follow him the way that franchise quarterbacks should be followed.

Ryan also paid picked up the tab for the event.

“I put it together,” Ryan said. “I’m not going to ask guys to go out of their pocket. For me, it was a great chance to get everybody together and give them a little fun for a couple days.”

As the offseason program approaches for the Falcons, it’ll be more fun for the team given that they won’t be learning a new offense.

“When you’ve been in the same system for seven years, you go on autopilot when you’re on the field,” Ryan said. “When it changes, there’s a lot of work that goes into it. Learning things, seeing things a little bit differently than what we had terminology-wise, speaking the same language. . . . I think we’re at a place where we’re really headed in the right direction. I thought we made strides as the year went on. But for me, even for this trip, to be able to talk in the language we’re going to use. . . . Last year, it was like, ‘Guys, I don’t know what we’re going to call this. Here’s what I want you to run.’ That part of it I think is really nice.”

Falcons fans will think it’s really nice if the team can get back to the playoffs after a three-year hiatus. At a time when some are wondering whether Ryan really is a franchise quarterback, he’s doing what he can to prove that the answer is yes.