Aspen Ideas Reporters Notebook: NFL quarterback Matt Ryan talks safety, schedule

Aspen Ideas runs through June 29
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Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan isn’t concerned about the state of football. The former NFL Most Valuable Player sat down with Southern Company’s Chris Womack on Wednesday inside the Doerr-Hosier Center as part of Aspen Ideas Festival and hit on many trending questions facing the sport.

The father of 1-year-old twin boys, Ryan is all for his kids playing football one day considering the recent advances the game has made in terms of player safety.

“There have been so many positive rule changes the past five or six years. It’s a much safer league in 2019 than it was in 2008 when I first started to play,” he said. “Starting with the NFL but really going to a grassroots level, I think there has been a great intent to make the game safer. And I think that’s a good thing.”

Another hot topic is the NFL’s current 16-game schedule. Some have talked about making the regular season longer by getting rid of some preseason games, but Ryan thinks the current format is ideal. He did admit, however, that players’ bodies aren’t quite as banged up at the end of the season as many think.

“People will be surprised to know I actually feel worse after Week 1 or 2 than I do after Week 16 or 17,” Ryan said. “The schedule sets up really well. The playoffs are as competitive as anything in professional sports. The parity is really good other than New England winning over and over. But the competitive balance is really good.”

Ryan guided the Falcons to Super Bowl 51 following the 2016-17 season, where they lost to Tom Brady and the Patriots. Atlanta had a slightly disappointing season last year, going 7-9 and missing the playoffs. He said much of that had to do with injuries and believes the Falcons should factor into the Super Bowl discussion come the fall.

“We’ve got a really good football team coming back. We had a bunch of injuries last year, which was a really cool opportunity for young guys on our team to step up and play a lot more,” Ryan said. “The sky is the limit for us. I feel we have a great coaching staff; we have a great group of players. We’ve got enough to win a championship, and that excites me.”