FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Catch Matt Ryan early enough in warm-ups on a given Sunday and you’ll see the Atlanta Falcons quarterback strolling from sideline to sideline with his hands in air, wiggling his fingers in unison with fellow quarterback Matt Schaub.
You’d think they were practicing dance moves or mirroring synchronized swimming, without the water. Observers find the practice a little odd, or at least they did initially.
“Our guys gave us a ton of s--- on it for all of OTAs while we were doing it,” Ryan said with a laugh. “You name it on our roster, and they’d laugh at you or whatever.”
The pregame routine was something Ryan picked up during his offseason training sessions in California with ex-baseball players Tom House and Adam Dedeaux. It is referred to as “activation protocol/arm care and recovery,” essentially a 15-18 minute session for Ryan to get his arm ready to throw.
“For me, it’s just a great way to get warmed up and to get blood flow in your shoulders,” Ryan said. “It’s a lot harder than it looks, and a little more painful than you might think. But for me, it’s been great.
“I feel like I don’t have to throw as many balls to get loosened up. And it takes some wear and tear off some joints and some different spots. That’s really important, especially as you get older, to make sure you’re maximizing: Every time you’re throwing it, you’re throwing it with a purpose.”
Ryan, 31, and Schaub, 35, go back and forth eight laps with their arms extended above the shoulders. The twitch of the hands simulates some of the throwing angles they would utilize throughout a game or even during a practice.
The exercise decreases the number of throws he needs to make to get warmed up.
“In the past it was 15, 20, 25 throws, something like that to start to get loose,” Ryan said. “Three or four throws now and we’re good to go. You talk about that over the course of six, seven months and even with the offseason, it’s a lot of throws. It’s a lot of wear and tear off of your shoulder, which is really important in the long run.”
Like Ryan, Schaub eventually adjusted to the routine and noticed the benefits.
“Once you’ve done this warm-up, you can just go and let it rip,” Schaub said. “I think in the long run, it saves your arm a little bit because you’re not sitting there trying to play catch and waste all these throws.”
Added Ryan: “It’s definitely an adjustment. It’s something that you have to make time for. But I think as you get older and as you learn yourself a little bit better, you make time for what’s important. And I think it’s really important. I think Matt would agree.”
Left tackle Jake Matthews wasn’t sure what Ryan was up to at first with the routine, so he might have snickered a time or two.
“They probably look at us and think we’re idiots, some of the stuff that we’re doing,” Matthews said with a laugh. “Whatever they need to do to get him playing the way he’s playing, I’ll take it.”
Ryan, second in the league in passing yards (4,050) and tied for second in touchdown passes (30), said his teammates don’t harass him about it too much anymore.
“I think they’ve also seen how it is a part of our routine,” he said. “It’s what we do. It gets us right. I don’t think anybody’s mad when you’re throwing it pretty good.”