Tom Brady and Matt Ryan once shared a city. Brady was already a Super Bowl winner for the Patriots while Ryan was starring at Boston College. Yet that’s about as close as the connection came. Geographical.
“I didn’t really know anybody (from the Patriots) while I was in school,” Ryan said Wednesday, noting that his only link to the team during those days was Brian Flores, who had played at BC one season with him and then was working as a scout for the Patriots (he’s now their linebackers coach). “I met Bill Belichick one time at an event. He knew Tom O’Brien, our coach, and they were friendly, but I just met him in passing and that was it.”
It took Ryan’s arrival in the NFL as a first-round pick of the Falcons in 2008 to spark a relationship with Brady, one that has grown throughout the years and finds them squaring off as opposing quarterbacks in Super Bowl LI.
The two trade texts often.
“Back and forth throughout the season, just letting him know he’s doing a good job when I see the highlights,’’ Ryan said. “And vice versa, the same for him. That’s kind of the unique fraternity at the quarterback position. You get to know guys over the years and he’s one of the good guys, a really good person to know.”
Brady, 39, will be playing in his record-setting seventh Super Bowl. Ryan, 31, is making his first Super Bowl appearance. Ryan marveled at what Brady has been able to accomplish, particularly late in his career.
“I think he’s kind of set the bar for longevity, aging well and playing at a really high level for a really long time,” Ryan said. “I know that he’s incredibly dedicated off the field in terms of taking care of himself, both mentally and physically, and training all year-round. He’s at it all year-round. He’s kind of shown the way on how to do that, how to take care of yourself and how to approach this the right way so you can play for a long time and play at a high level for a long time.”
Brady thinks highly of Ryan, too. Earlier this month, he told Boston’s WEEI radio that Ryan is “as deserving as anybody” of the league’s MVP award. “I think Matt has had an incredible year,” Brady said then. “He’s got that team playing well.’’
On Wednesday, Ryan reciprocated.
“Tom has had an unbelievable year,” Ryan said. “He’s just played really, really good football. He’s been that way for a long time. He’s been so consistent throughout his career. Such a great player and such a great competitor.”
And also, a friend.
“I’ve gotten to know him a little bit since I’ve been in the league,” Ryan said. “Certainly he’s a good person and a good guy to talk to.”
Next week, he’ll be someone Ryan tries to emulate as well. At least when it comes to winning Super Bowls.
Notes & quotes: Dan Quinn said WR Julio Jones (toe) and C Alex Mack (fibula) will not practice this week but should be “ready to go next week” after the team arrives in Houston . . . The Falcons practiced Wednesday and also will work out Thursday and Friday at their facility in Georgia before traveling to Super Bowl LI on Sunday . . . . Falcons DE Dwight Freeney did not practice, getting a regularly scheduled day off. The 36-year-old is expected to practice Thursday and Friday.