FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Atlanta Falcons started preparations Tuesday for their NFC divisional playoff game against the Eagles in Philadelphia without Matt Ryan on the practice field. Unlike Eagles starter Carson Wentz, however, Ryan is still expected to play Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field.
“Matt Ryan will be listed as did not participate in practice [Tuesday] for a non-injury related matter,” a Falcons spokesperson said after Atlanta completed its practice.
The Exton, Pa., native and former star at Penn Charter in Philadelphia was absent for personal reasons, the spokesperson said. Ryan, 32, was in the Atlanta practice facility in the morning, but left “for an appointment,” according to the Falcons.
The team declined to comment on the nature of Ryan’s personal issue, but it is known that his wife Sarah is pregnant with twins and due in April. Sarah Ryan, a former point guard at Boston College where she met her husband, announced the news of her pregnancy in a November posting on Instagram.
Veteran Matt Schaub, another Philadelphia-area native, took the reps with the Falcons’ first-team offense during practice Tuesday. Schaub, who attended West Chester East High School before playing at Virginia, has only attempted three passes since returning to the Falcons as Ryan’s backup before last season. He did not throw a single pass this season.
Ryan was the NFL MVP last season when he threw a career-high 38 touchdowns and led the Falcons to their second Super Bowl in franchise history. His statistics were not nearly as good this season. He threw just 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, but he led the Falcons to a 26-13 upset victory over the Rams in Los Angeles last Saturday, completing 21 of 30 passes for 218 yards and one touchdown.
Since throwing just three touchdowns and four interceptions while losing his first three NFL playoff games, Ryan is 4-2 in the postseason with 16 touchdowns, three interceptions and a 119.1 passer rating. He has completed 70.7 of his passes in those six games and averaged 313 passing yards per game.
“I think this season he has come into his own as a leader among our guys,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said Tuesday. “That’s not to say he wasn’t a leader before … but this year he has not just been a leader on the offensive side but from the standpoint of the whole team as well. He makes sure we are in the right spot at the right time.”
In addition to Ryan, the Falcons also practiced Tuesday without star wide receiver Julio Jones, who has a sore knee. Jones, a five-time Pro Bowler, has been the Falcons’ leading receiver each of the last four seasons and has 26 catches for 428 yards and three touchdowns in four career games against the Eagles.
“He will start getting his work in [Wednesday],” Quinn said.
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