FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Despite becoming the highest paid player in the NFL, Matt Ryan views his new contract as an incentive, not a reward.
"The ultimate motivation more so than anything is winning a championship," Ryan said. "We were close a couple of years ago, and when you don't get it I think it makes you even hungrier than you were before. It makes you work with a level of detail that you've maybe never worked with before. That's what gets me out of bed in the morning. It's about trying to win a championship and trying to be the best version of myself for this team this year."
He's been named the NFL's MVP – the highest honor a player can get for their performance in the regular season – he became the fastest player in NFL history to reach 40,000 passing yards, accomplishing the feat in 151 games, and he's set 20 franchise records. But none of those accolades mean more than what the feeling of bringing the city of Atlanta a championship.
And while some on the outside might talk about this so-called "window" that quarterbacks are perceived to have when they are over 30 years old and surrounded by a significant amount of talent, Ryan doesn't consume his mind with anything other than what's in front of him at that moment.
"Forget the window," Ryan said. "I think it's year to year. You have to believe in the team that you have that year. That's the only window to concern yourself with. I feel like we've got a lot of the pieces in the right places for right now. We've got a great opportunity this year to be a good football team. In 10 years of doing it, that's what I've found. If you think you've got three to four years or five years, you don't know what's going to happen. It's about being all in with the team and the vibe that we have as a team right now. It's about this year's window."
Ryan's best year resulted in him leading the NFL's No. 1 scoring offense and earning a trip to the Super Bowl in 2016. Now, he believes with the talent he has surrounding him, this year's offense has a chance to be as good as any he's ever been a part of.
"This group certainly has the opportunity to be as good as any of them," Ryan said. "We have talent at a lot of different positions. We have a great offensive coordinator in Steve Sarkisian who is in his second year which I think is huge [in] understanding No. 1 our scheme and No. 2 the guys and how we fit into our scheme, our personnel. We have that opportunity to be as good as any offense I've been a part of."