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Ryan looking forward to Boston return

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff  September 23, 2009 11:52 AM

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FOXBOROUGH -- Former Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan, now in his second year with the Atlanta Falcons, said today during a conference call with local media "it'll be great to get back" to the Boston area for Sunday's game against the Patriots at Gillette Stadium.

"You know it's a part of the country that I love and it has a special place in my heart from my days with BC," said Ryan, a first-round selection (third overall) of the Falcons in the 2008 NFL Draft, who has guided Atlanta to a 2-0 start. "I'll be excited to get back and I know there'll be some people at the game I'll be excited to see."

One of those people Ryan was eager to connect with was former BC teammate, Ron Brace, a second-round choice of the Patriots in the 2009 NFL Draft. Brace said yesterday he, too, was just as eager to meet up with Ryan, but had not spoken to him in some time because the QB had changed his cellphone number.

"That's why Ron's having [difficulty] getting in touch," Ryan admitted. "I'll be excited to see him this weekend."

Will you, really? "Yeah, well, hopefully not in the backfield," Ryan clarified. "I'll be excited just to say hello and keep in touch, because Ron was a good teammate and a good friend when I was at BC."

Ryan has been back to the Heights twice since joining the Falcons, once during a bye week in his rookie season to attend a BC-Virginia Tech Thursday night affair and another time during the off-season. He said he would not likely be able to squeeze in a visit to Alumni Stadium for BC's home game against Altantic Coast Conference foe Wake Forest. "This is a business trip for us and that's how we're treating it," Ryan said.

So far this season, Ryan's been all business. He has the Falcons at 2-0 after completing 43 of 63 passings (68.3 percent) for 449 yards, five touchdowns and one interception for a 108.5 passer rating. He set career highs with three touchdown passes and a 78.0 completion percentage against the Carolina Panthers in a Week 2 28-20 triumph.

Asked if he sensed any difference in his ability to lead the team versus his rookie season, Ryan said, "Anytime you've been around for a situation longer, you become more comfortable with your role on the team and I feel more comfortable than I did last year. That comes with playing the position; you have to take on some leadership qualities, just because of the position you play. I definitely feel more comfortable with it this year, though."

Said Falcons coach Mike Smith, "Matt has earned the right to be a leader on this football team, because he's made a lot of plays."

One of which was the first throw he made, which went for a 65-yard TD to Roddy White in the Falcons' 2008 season opener vs. the Detroit Lions. Ryan chuckled when asked if he people expected that his second or third throws of his career would also yield similar results.

"I hope not, because nobody can live up to those expectations," said Ryan, who wound up being recognized as the 2008 Associated Press and Sporting News Rookie of the Year after guiding the Falcons to an 11-5 record and a second-place finish in the NFC South. "It was a fast start to last year and that was good for our team, no question about it. With that said, there were some ups and downs for myself. I think I learned from both of them and that'll make me a better player this year."

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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