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Rookie Ryan taking aim
Quarterbacks Matt Ryan, left, and D.J. Shockley drop back to pass during a drill at Atlanta Falcons football training camp last week in Flowery Branch. - photo by The Associated Press

Matt Ryan is the new face of the Atlanta Falcons. With a six-year, $72 million contract signed, it seems that the Falcons believe that this could be the quarterback to bring a consistency never achieved in franchise history.

Now Ryan is looking to lock up the starting job for the 2008 season. He made his first appearance in the newly renovated Georgia Dome for Falcons fans in a controlled scrimmage Saturday during the organization’s All Access Weekend.

As part of a series introducing the Falcons rookies, Ryan, the No. 3 overall pick in April’s draft, spoke with Times sports writer Bill Murphy after the scrimmage about the new look to the Georgia Dome, nerves coming into the upcoming season, learning to be a consistent NFL quarterback and the work ahead to land the starting job.

Question: Do you consider this a battle for the starting quarterback job or just natural competition?

Answer: I really just think of it as good competition. I know everyone wants to be a good teammate, and everyone wants to do their part to help this team win. So far, I think everyone’s done a great job.

Q: Were there any added nerves seeing this was your first time playing here at the Georgia Dome in front of the fans?

A: I think you get a little bit of butterflies any time you come out and play, but for the most part, not really. I think that we practiced hard and were prepared coming in here to play this weekend for the fans. Now we just have to be ready to work hard all this week and be ready to play Jacksonville (on Saturday).

Q: What has been the biggest adjustment you’ve seen in training camp so far between playing in the NFL and being a college

A: I think the biggest adjustment is learning what you can do and what you can’t do. There are plays you could get away with in college that you can’t get away with in the NFL. You just kind of have to learn when to check the ball down and when to get rid of it. You also have to learn when to take your shots, and that takes time.

Q: Did you make any throws in this first scrimmage you wish you could take back?

A: Yeah, I threw one interception that I probably shouldn’t have. It’s good to get that out of your system. It’s good to learn from your mistakes and what throws to make and when to check down. Hopefully I can continue to get better at that.

Q: Do all the changes to the Georgia Dome make a difference to the players?

A: This is the first time I’ve been able to run around down here. I’ve been down here once before. I think it looks great. I think Mr. Blank did a great job renovating the building. I didn’t really see it beforehand just from on TV and such, but it really looks nice.

Q: Are you pleased with the fan support for your first appearance?

A: It was a great turnout. A lot of fans came out and it was a lot of fun.

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