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INDIANAPOLIS – Veteran quarterback Matt Ryan enjoyed sustained success and excellence with one team. He was the face of the franchise, the on-field catalyst and the unquestioned leader in the locker room.

Until circumstances changed.

In the span of a few days, Ryan found himself traveling a path forged by Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford and a handful of others.

“The road map looks pretty good,’’ Ryan said Tuesday as he was introduced as the Indianapolis Colts’ latest face/catalyst/leader.

The heartbeat of the Falcons one day, the ray of hope for the Colts the next.

That was the case with Manning, the Colt-for-life who was released in March 2012 after 14 years in Indy and led the Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl two years later and a world championship within four seasons.

And that’s been the case with the last two Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks: Brady with Tampa Bay and Stafford with the Los Angeles Rams. Brady joined the Buccaneers as a free agent in 2020 after 20 championship-laden seasons in New England while Stafford’s 12-year career with Detroit ended with a trade to the Rams last offseason.

Ryan had thoughts of finishing his career where it started, in Atlanta with the team that selected him with the 3rd overall pick in the 2008 draft.

“Yeah, for sure,’’ he said. “Loved every minute of it. At the same time, I understood whether it was this year, next year, whenever, there might be a time when something different happens. You talk about it Tom Brady or Peyton or any of those guys. They’ve had times where they’ve had to transition and both of them have had tremendous success with that.”

“In the back of my mind, that’s what I’m thinking about right now: this opportunity that I have for the rest of my career to try and catch that spark and go. I’m coming into a building that has been set up extremely well and a roster that has been set up to win.’’

The get-to-know-you process began shortly after the Colts acquired Ryan in a Monday trade with the Falcons. There were dozens of “Welcome to Indy’’ texts from his new teammates. Tuesday, Ryan shared lunch with new left guard Quenton Nelson and center Ryan Kelly.

“In every one of their first text messages, it was about winning,’’ Ryan said. “That’s unique, it really is. That fires me up.”

“I hope we can, like I said, ride that trend that’s been going on and make it work for us.’’

This wasn’t how Ryan envisioned things playing out. Early last week, his relationship with the Falcons seemed as solid as ever.

Then, circumstances changed and a flurry of career-altering activity ensued.

Atlanta’s pursuit of Deshaun Watson signaled the franchise’s willingness to move on from NFL’s 2016 MVP and arguably the most influential player in team history.

“It’s definitely been a whirlwind of a week for sure on my end,’’ Ryan said with a smile. “This time last week we didn’t know how it was going to shake out.’’

Player movement makes the NFL go ‘round, and recently that has come to include top-tier quarterbacks. Russell Wilson, the long-time icon in Seattle, was traded to Denver.

Until last week, Ryan had been insulated from that nomadic nature of the league.

“It was a different week,’’ he said. “I’m not naïve. I understand how this business works and that there’s going to be movement.’’

Ryan didn’t particularly like everything he heard as the Falcons courted Watson and considered trading him, “but you don’t always like what you hear sometimes,’’ he said.

“I knew at some point I was going to need to make a decision on whether or not I wanted to stay, and as I looked into it, I knew there was only one spot that I wanted to go.’’


“There was no doubt that if I were to make a move, this is exactly where I wanted to be,’’ Ryan said.

If there was any lingering doubt, it was squelched following a Zoom conference call Saturday that included general manager Chris Ballard, coach Frank Reich, offensive coordinator Marcus Brady and pass game specialist coach Parks Frazier.

It lasted roughly two hours and “sold’’ Ryan on his pending relocation.

“Their passion, their commitment, their professionalism, the accountability Chris has for himself and what he does, the empathy Frank has for my situation of understanding you’ve been in a certain spot and done it one way, and don’t ever forget that . . . but this next chapter can be even better,’’ Ryan said.

“It was a really, really cool meeting for me.’’

Ryan was upstairs in his office, then had a meeting with his family: wife Sarah and 4-year old twins Marshall and Johnny.

The question that had to be answered: What makes the most sense for us?

As her husband came downstairs following the meeting, Sarah told him, “You look different.’’

He was. The Falcon was about to become a Colt.

“I kind of knew at that point that was the direction we wanted to go,’’ Ryan said.

The feeling was mutual.

“After visiting with him we felt this was the right move to make,’’ Ballard said during an appearance on the Pat McAfee Show. “I think it just came to the point where both (the Falcons and Ryan) thought, ‘You know what? It’s time.’

“We also knew we weren’t going to rush the decision. We wanted to make sure we got it right. We felt we did.’’

How much longer?

Ryan turns 37 in May and is entering his 15th season. He’s clearly on the downside of a Hall of Fame-worthy career.

The Colts assumed the final two years of Ryan’s contract, and have guaranteed the value: $24.7 million this season and $29.2 million in 2023, according to

At the very least, he’s their QB for two seasons. Perhaps longer.

“I’ve said from the start I’d like to play as long as I can,’’ Ryan said. “I feel really good. My body feels really good. I still feel like I can play at as high a level as I ever have and as long as that is . . . nobody has a crystal ball to know exactly how long it’s going to be.

“As long as I feel good and feel like I can play well, I’m going to try and play.’’

“We think he has a lot left in his career,’’ Ballard said. “We know we have him for two good years for sure. Hopefully it’s longer. You never know how things work out in the league.”

“I know (from) spending time with him today, he’s really driven to win. And he’s a tremendous competitor. He’s kept his body in great shape. It’s going to be fun. It’ll be cool to watch this thing play out. And I think he’s going to do well really and I think our team is going to embrace it.’’

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You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.