WESTFIELD, Ind. – Matt Ryan estimated he's spent about a year of his life in training camp.
For about four weeks every year for the last 14 years, Ryan reported to the Atlanta Falcons' training facility in Flowery Branch, Ga., to prepare for the upcoming season. Four times 14 is 56 – so, yeah, Ryan's estimation is about right.
But Ryan's 15th training camp is somewhere new. Ryan will spend the next month at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind. – the first time he's gone "away" for training camp – but feels invigorated by the shift in his surroundings.
"When you're in a new spot and it's different, there is that anxiousness about finding out, you know, where's the cafeteria. I think it's a great thing," Ryan said. "I really do think the best things in life come right past being really uncomfortable when you fight through it or something changes and you have to push through. I've always believed that and certainly believe that in this situation."
Through that literal year of experience, Ryan learned what red flags to look for – especially as the adrenaline of early training camp fades into the week-to-week grind of August. So when asked what he'll do to keep his teammates sharp over the next few weeks, Ryan thought about it, got a grin on his face and quipped:
"Keep a foot up their a**."
He went on to explain his approach in more detail.
"Sometimes it's letting guys know that we expect better. Sometimes it's a little love. Each guy is different, each day is different," Ryan said. "But the beauty of experience is you kind of know when it's not right, and you have that sense of when things aren't right.
"The thing I've learned is you have to nip that in the bud as soon as possible and you have to get it back to where it needs to be. I try to do the best I can do. We also have a great coaching staff, guys that have great experience, understand what it looks like at the highest level, and that's going to help us."
Ryan has always been comfortable in a leadership role, and he's found a knack over his decade and a half in the NFL for finding ways to bring out the best in teammates. Running back Nyheim Hines said he's already seen how Ryan can get the most out of everyone in his orbit just by the gravitas he carries when he speaks.
"I can't describe it, you just get chills," Hines said. "He starts talking to us, and you just look at him and go okay, this guy is about to lead us to a championship or to (the) AFC South (championship) and lead us as far as we want to go."
This is a Colts team with aspirations to win the AFC South – something they haven't done 2014 – and make a deep run in the playoffs. It's "Super Bowl or bust," defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said. And the team sees Ryan's leadership as an undercurrent to keeping those goals on track, whether it's in July or August or into the season.
"You feel it from the team, you sense it from the team," head coach Frank Reich said. "You sense a confidence from the team, and I think that's where we feel right now with Matt as our quarterback. He's just come in here in every way physically, the way he's throwing the ball, the way he carries himself and what he has meant to this team and what he's said to this team, but we're just at the beginning of the road but his experience and his leadership – I think we're all feeling it."
The Colts held their first practice of their 2022 Training Camp.