AP File Photo
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan passes the ball during the first half of the NFC Championship game earlier this year in Atlanta.
DULUTH, Ga. — Matt Ryan isn’t focusing on contract talks as he appears destined to become the NFL’s next $100 million quarterback.
The six-year, $66 million contract Ryan signed with Atlanta as a rookie in 1998 expires after the 2013 season. General manager Thomas Dimitroff recently said the Falcons hope to finalize a new deal with Ryan before the season.
Ryan said Monday that the timetable “is not something I worry about.”
“I understand the nature of the business and how everything operates,” he said at his Matt Ryan Celebrity Am Classic at TPC Sugarloaf.
“At the same time, my focus has always been to just try to prepare myself to just play and let all the other stuff take care of itself. I’m not really too worried about it. My sole focus this offseason is to prepare myself, to work really hard and to try to give ourselves another chance like we had last year.”
Ryan led the Falcons to the NFC championship game last season — his fourth appearance in the playoffs in his five seasons. He is the figurehead of the Falcons’ franchise, and a new contract could prove he is viewed by the team as an elite quarterback.
Drew Brees, Tony Romo and Joe Flacco have recently signed five- or six-year deals worth at least $100 million. As the most recent Super Bowl winner, Flacco became the game’s highest-paid player with his $120.6 million deal.
Dimitroff also has said that Ryan “isn’t worried about it right now because he knows there is something around the corner, as we do. I am hoping that we can agree to something going into the season.”
Similarly, coach Mike Smith said last month at the NFL owner’s meeting he fully expects Ryan to be the team’s long-term leader.
“From my point of view, we all know that Matt Ryan is going to be the quarterback for a long time in the Atlanta Falcons organization,” Smith said. “He undoubtedly in my mind is an elite quarterback. He’s played that way through his first five years.
“In terms of the timing and all that, I don’t concern myself with it. That’s something that Thomas and (team president) Rich McKay and his representatives have to talk about. But I know this is going to be our quarterback for a long, long time.”
Ryan isn’t looking to leave the Falcons.
“I want to be here in Atlanta,” he said. “I love this place. I love the organization and I’m sure it will take care of itself.”
Ryan’s status on the team is also clear to such newcomers as Osi Umenyiora, the former Giants defensive end who signed with the Falcons last month as a free agent.
Umenyiora wore black loafers and a pained grimace as he played the hilly TPC Sugarloaf course in a foursome behind Ryan’s.
“I’m absolutely horrible at this,” Umenyiora said as he took a break from what he said was his first time playing golf. Umenyiora said he always has avoided other invitations to play golf but couldn’t turn down the request from Ryan.
“I’ve ducked it every single time,” Umenyiora said. “It took Matt Ryan to get me to come out here and swing the golf clubs. That shows how much respect I have for him and what he’s trying to do.”
The Falcons led the NFC with their 13-3 record. They beat Seattle for their first postseason win in the five years with Smith and Ryan before falling to San Francisco in the NFC championship game.
“We were close last year,” Ryan said. “We didn’t quite get it to where we want it to go, but at the same time we’ve got a lot of great players coming back. We’re going to continue to work hard and really just try to give ourselves another opportunity.”
The Falcons have released running back Michael Turner, cornerback Dunta Robinson, defensive end John Abraham and offensive tackle Tyson Clabo. Center Todd McClure retired.
The team re-signed offensive tackle Sam Baker and safety William Moore, convinced tight end Tony Gonzalez to return for another season and added free-agent running back Steven Jackson.
“I think Thomas and his staff have done a great job this offseason,” Ryan said. “You never like to see people go, especially when you have such great guys like Dunta, John Abraham and Michael Turner who have been extremely productive for us. You move on, that’s part of the business, and I think they’ve done a great job addressing some of the areas they felt like they needed to address.”MORE IN Sports WireMIAMI — The exhilaration of winning Game 7s was short-lived for Toronto and Miami. Full StoryPITTSBURGH — Brooks Orpik was trying to be physical. Full Story
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