Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan walks off the field following a thrilling win against Seattle, which gave Atlanta its first playoff win since 2004 and a trip to the NFC Championship game against San Francisco.
FLOWERY BRANCH — The Atlanta Falcons opened training camp with a bang Thursday when they announced a five-year, $103.75 million contract extension for quarterback Matt Ryan.
Ryan deflected queries throughout the offseason about the status of the deal.
He was happy to talk Thursday.
“It’s awesome,” Ryan said at a press conference following the first day of field workouts at the team’s complex in Flowery Branch. “I’m happy to be here.
“I was confident it was going to get done in a timely fashion. I think both sides were. It is nice to have this done and start worrying about the things that are important.”
Owner Arthur Blank praised his franchise quarterback and the other men on the dais.
“Today is a significant day for us,” Blank said. “Back in 2008, the franchise was at a crossroads. We were blessed and I was able to bring to Atlanta the men to my left, (general manager) Thomas Dimitroff and Coach (Mike) Smith.
“At the same, there was a lot of pressure on us in the 2008 draft in terms of going in many different directions. Thomas and Smitty and the organization obviously made a brilliant decision.”
Dimitroff thanked Blank for giving him access to the “piggybank to go after the marquee players.”
“Matt is our quarterback of the future and for many years to come,” Dimitroff said. “This deal secures that.
“Suffice it to say, I think we’re all glad we didn’t go defensive tackle with the third pick of the first round back in 2008.”
Smith echoed both Blank and Dimitroff.
“Matt has done some wonderful things as a football player since he got here in 2008,” Smith said. “He’s a big reason for the success we have had and he’s made me a better football coach. I look forward to working with him for a long, long time.”
Ryan had his best season in an already impressive career last year.
He set single-season franchise records for passing yards (4,719), pass attempts (615), completions (422), touchdown passes (32) and 300-yard games (7).
“In every sense of the word, in every definition, Matt is a franchise quarterback,” Blank said. “It’s always been our philosophy of rewarding players for performance.”
In 2012, Ryan led the NFL with a 68.6 completion percentage. The Falcons were 13-3, won their second NFC South title in the last three years and made the playoffs for a third straight season.
In five seasons with Ryan under center, the Falcons are 56-22, an NFL record start for a quarterback. A two-time Pro Bowl pick, Ryan tied Ben Roethlisberger as the second fastest active quarterback to reach 50 wins, hitting the milestone in 69 games.
“I’m really excited to have this done and to answer questions about the 2013 season,” Ryan said. “To start to worry about what’s important — and that’s preparing ourselves for the 2013 regular season and making sure over the course of the next six weeks that we do everything we can to have ourselves ready to play.”
Ryan was pleased with the first day of workouts, which run through Aug. 11 and are open to the public most days.
“It was great to get out there and get to work,” Ryan said. “It was a productive first day.”