Two days after being informed the Colts were naming Sam Ehlinger as their starting quarterback, Matt Ryan stood in front of his locker at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center and expressed his individual and personal disappointing with losing his QB1 status – but also what his mindset would be moving forward.
"I've always preached that you've got to accept and embrace the role that they decide for you and try to be the best in that role that you be," Ryan said. "And that's what I'll do."
Ryan spent the next few weeks rehabbing his right shoulder, which was injured in the Colts' Week 7 loss to the Tennessee Titans, and doing what he could to help Ehlinger throughout the week and on gamedays. What he didn't do was mentally check out or become a malcontent.
"It's probably natural to do that in those situations," Ryan said. "But from the people I trust and the advice I got from people outside of the building I talked to is, the one constant is you can't assume anything in this league. You can't make the assumption that you know how things are going to shake out. You just don't. You just keep that mindset that you don't know how the week's going to shake out. You try to get yourself in a good space mentally and physically, and I think part of that, rehabbing during that time of trying to feel better and get myself to a good place kind of helped me through that."
In part because he maintained a high level of professionalism and perspective, interim head coach Jeff Saturday felt comfortable about going back to Ryan as the Colts' starting quarterback for Week 10. In the whirlwind of last week, Saturday had a conversation with Ryan to gauge the veteran quarterback's physical and mental state, and came out of it confident Ryan was not only engaged, but ready to play if asked.
"15 years in the league and getting benched and all the other things that subsequently went with that, just wanted to make sure he was in the right frame of mind," Saturday said. "And listen, he's a pro. Everybody that I spoke to, even before I had the discussion with him, talked about how he had supported Sam, and (that) his role on this team as a leader did not diminish in the slightest."
The Colts will move forward with Ryan as their starting quarterback, Saturday confirmed on Wednesday. And the way Ryan approached the two weeks he was inactive set a tone for everyone else in the team facility during a difficult stretch for the organization.
"I can't say enough, can't rave enough about Matt Ryan the professional, the person, the player, how he's handled this whole entire thing," offensive playcaller and assistant quarterbacks coach/pass game coordinator Parks Frazier said. "I've told him this week after week, just how much of an example he's set for me and I think for a lot of guys on the team and on the staff. Just how to handle adverse situations.
"I mean, the guy is the ultimate pro. I could sit here and talk all day about how he handled the situation and how it couldn't have been handled any better. You could sit here – you could have three years to think about the situation and think about how you would want to handle it and you couldn't handle it any better than how Matt Ryan has handled it. So, just for him to be able to go out there in his first game back and then have the success that he did. It just – unbelievable."
Ryan completed 21 of 28 passes for 222 yards with two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing), and added a career long 39-yard scramble in the Colts' 25-20 win over the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium. His years of experience playing on short weeks, or playing while banged up, prepared him to get ready for a game with just two practices last week. But that experience also helped him handle the sting of being benched while knowing the Colts might need him again at some point this season.
"Constantly as competitors, we all believe we're the best, right? That's just how you think," Ryan said. "When you're told, we feel like somebody else can do a better job for us, that part's hard. That's natural.
"... In all situations – uncomfortable, good, bad – there's a right way and a wrong way to do things. And I've always just tried to do it the right way."
Wednesday's practice report: