FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Matt Ryan brought the No. 2 jersey back to the Atlanta Falcons’ training camp on Friday.
This time, however, the jerseys were worn by Ryan’s 5-year-old twins, Johnny and Marshall. Ryan, the most accomplished quarterback in franchise history, returned as a sideline spectator, perhaps gathering notes for his new career as a TV analyst.
Ryan played 14 seasons with Atlanta from 2008-2021 before he was granted his trade request and spent the 2022 season with Indianapolis.
In May, Ryan joined CBS as an analyst. He did not retire as a player but is not with a team in training camp, leaving time for his visit to the Falcons’ camp. He stood on the sideline, playing with his sons, chatting with coach Arthur Smith and giving high-fives to his former teammates. He did not talk to reporters.
Smith’s 2021 debut in Atlanta was Ryan’s final season with the team.
“We love Matt,” Smith said. “I enjoyed the year I got to work with him. We have kids of similar age and he doesn’t live that far from me. I love having Matt out here.”
Ryan requested a trade from the rebuilding Falcons and was dealt to the Colts before the 2022 season for a third-round draft pick. The season in Indianapolis didn’t go well, with Ryan benched before being released in March. The move saved the Colts about $17.2 million in salary cap space.
The rocky season with the Colts didn’t change Ryan’s status as the quarterback with most passing records and the most wins in franchise history, including the 2016 run to the Super Bowl.
“Best quarterback to come through here ever,” longtime Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said. “Falcons legend. Love Matt, always loved Matt and it was good seeing him.”
Ryan’s visit came three days after Falcons owner Arthur Blank said Ryan “is welcomed back into the organization” and that he views Ryan like one of his children.
“I had dinner with Matt sometime after the end of the season,” Blank said. “I have six children, so I say Matt is like a seventh child to me, in some ways it’s true.”
Blanks said he expects to see more of Ryan.
“We love Matt, I think he loves Atlanta, he loves the Falcons and I think when his playing career is over, whenever that officially becomes over, I think you’ll see even more of him,” Blank said.
“We have a great relationship with him, and I wish him all the luck now with his new role with CBS. I think he’ll do great at it. He’s articulate, you can be articulate but not smart. He’s really smart and he’s articulate and I think he’ll do a great job with CBS.”
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