Matt Ryan a Luke Kuechly Fan?

Kevin Liles-US PRESSWIRE

A photo of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan holding up a signed Panthers jersey from fellow Boston College alumnus and Defensive Rookie of the Year Luke Kuechly is being blown way out of proportion.

As we all know, it's a slow time of year for NFL news. The good news is, the Falcons will have some open practices during minicamp next week, and I will be there to cover it. The bad news is, today I had the option of writing about Tim Tebow signing with the Patriots--no, it doesn't have anything to do with the Falcons, but it's Tim Tebow, and all NFL news revolves around Tim Tebow--or about this photo of Matt Ryan holding up an autographed Luke Kuechly jersey.

Kuechly, like Ryan, went to Boston College. The photo is undated, and it's unclear where it came from or what purpose it's intended to serve. For all we know, Ryan collects NFL jerseys from his fellow Boston College alumni, and the photos of him holding up an autographed Matt Hasselbeck or Matthias Kiwanuka or B.J. Raji jersey just haven't surfaced.

And, Kuechly, a linebacker entering his second year in the league, is no scrub. He was named Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012, and has established himself as a leader for Carolina's defense early in his career.

Professional athletes get each other's autographs occasionally. Sometimes it happens after games, and if your team just lost to Peyton Manning, and a player approaches him immediately after for an autograph or a photo--as Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe both did last season--it's understandable when fans react negatively. Tashard Choice also received backlash from Cowboys fans when he approached Eagles quarterback Michael Vick for an autograph following a loss to Philadelphia. Both Charles' and Choice's requests were televised, and sparked a heated debate on the appropriateness, not really of the request, but of the timing.

Let's be honest: if Matt Ryan had gone up to Luke Kuechly immediately after Atlanta's loss in Carolina last season, and had asked for an autograph while Greg Hardy was prancing around instructing the Falcons to get off of his field in the background, we would all be angry. And, if Ryan had said--like Choice and Charles did in their respective situations--that he was requesting the autograph for someone else, we wouldn't have been less angry. A loss should matter more to the quarterback, the undisputed leader of the team.

But that's not what happened at all. We don't know when the photo of Ryan was taken, but it surely didn't happen on the field after a loss. And, professional athletes acquiring signed memorabilia from their peers is not an uncommon thing. NBA players in particular make a habit of signing memorabilia for other players, just not usually right after a game. Arian Foster tweeted after the Charles/Manning autograph drama that he exchanges autographs with other players regularly, and that he had gotten Charles' signature after the 2010 Pro Bowl. Cam Newton developed an unflattering reputation among his NFL peers by turning down an autograph request from another player at the 2012 Pro Bowl.

While Carolina is obviously a division rival, Matt Ryan has been very successful against them. Since his arrival in Atlanta, Ryan is 7-3 against the Panthers. Ryan also was less than hospitable the last time the Panthers visited the Georgia Dome. The idea that a photo with a Luke Kuechly jersey makes Matt Ryan a secret Panthers fan, as some Panthers fans have suggested, is just silly. What are the odds that Luke Kuechly has a signed Matt Ryan jersey in his possession? They're probably pretty high. And, there are no Boston College alumni on the New Orleans Saints roster, thankfully.

Do you think this is a big deal, or a non-issue? Discuss!

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