Matt Ryan, entering his 12th NFL season, is a man on a mission. He knows good enough isn’t good enough and he’s working with a nutritionist, a new trainer, and Matt Schaub through the offseason. He’s leaving no stone unturned in his desire to become the very best.
Ryan: You know, when you miss the playoffs like we did in 2018, you always look for ways to improve. If you want to beat Drew Brees you need an edge. My nutritionist suggested going vegan and I feel so much lighter. Yoga five times a week is doing wonders for my balance and mobility. And fight club has definitely improved my endurance and I really felt like destroying something beautiful. And to be totally honest, after having blockers like Sam Baker, Lamar Holmes, and Peter Konz, getting beat up just isn’t a big deal anymore.
As part of his vegan diet, Ryan has eliminated all meat and dairy from his diet and is down 6 pounds. Ryan has grown closer to backup quarterback Matt Schaub, who first recommended the bare-knuckle, bloody, and violent fight club in the first place.
Schaub, perhaps past his prime on the field has been a quarterback whisperer to Ryan. He’s been integral to Ryan’s MVP season and prolific stats.
We asked Schaub if he thinks the fight club will help Ryan improve next season.
Schaub: Did you know that if you mix equal parts of gasoline and frozen orange juice concentrate, you can make napalm?
Almost 10 years ago 15 to 20 Falcons players worked with MMA trainers to improve endurance, grappling, and leverage, with Paul Worrilow more recently using the training to improve tackling.
The fight club seems a little more extreme for a number of reasons, first being instead of occurring in a gym the fights happen in nondescript basement concrete floors.
Ryan: Schaub’s been great. I’m learning so much from him. What audibles to call when expecting a corner blitz. Or that you can swallow a pint of blood before you get sick. Sometimes you need other people to help push you to the next level. Kind of like keeping pace in a spin class. Fight club is my spin class.
The Falcons have long been criticized as lacking a killer instinct. That may change now that Ryan may actually kill someone unless they tap out. He’s fully embraced the offseason changes despite criticism.
Ryan: I got in everyone’s hostile little face. Yes, these are bruises from fighting. Yes, I’ve completely eliminated animal products from my diet. Yes, these are yoga pants. Yes, I’m comfortable with that. I am enlightened.
Like all true leaders, Ryan is getting buy-in from everyone in the organization. Not just other players but coaches and even general manager Thomas Dimitroff.
It is early but Dimitroff sounded impressed while bleeding profusely from a head wound.
Dimitroff: You know I’m really impressed with the Matts this offseason. Matt 2 is really working hard to get Matt 1 on the very top of his game and it is working. Matt 1 is hungrier, more dedicated, with a little something in his eyes. And no, not just the broken blood vessels in his eyes from blunt force drama. And just like Matt 2 always, says, “I don’t want to die without any scars.”
Will the new, meaner, more flexible, vegan Falcons finally pull off a Super Bowl win? It is hard to say for sure, but we know the team has never won a championship in years without fight clubs.