Matt Ryan on playing into his 40s: 'I don't see why not'

Can Matt Ryan play into his 40s? (1:36)

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan doesn't want to look too far into the future, but the 33-year-old one-time MVP didn't hesitate when asked if he could see himself playing at age 40.

"Yeah, I think so," Ryan told ESPN. "I think, No. 1, I've got a long way to go until I get there. But if you can stay healthy, and you're still playing at a high level and all those things, I don't see why not."

Ryan has been fortunate to have good health through his 11 seasons, missing just two games in 2009 because of turf toe. He played all 1,024 snaps for the Falcons last season, making him the only quarterback to do so in 2017.

A healthy diet and attempting to get nine hours of sleep per night have helped Ryan preserve his body. Other elements have factored in as well.

"Just in terms of training and in terms of recovery, whether it's massage or stretching," Ryan said. "There's tons of different things that I do now that I didn't do earlier in my career that I think help keep you healthy further into you career. I think those are all variables that can help you play longer."

The prospect of playing at a high level as he gets older looks good for Ryan, based on what's going on around the league. MVP candidate Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints turns 40 on Jan. 15. Philip Rivers of the Los Angeles Chargers, another MVP candidate, turned 37 earlier this month. Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, now 41, has his team in position for another division title after helping them to the Super Bowl last year at age 40.

"It's cool to see," Ryan said of his fellow quarterbacks. "Obviously, they're all playing really well, playing at a high level. I think this position is one that experience really helps, having seen a lot of different things and being able to play from the pocket. The way those guys play allows them to play for a long time, too. It's cool. It's really cool to see. And it certainly is motivating for younger guys like myself."

Barring any dramatic change in plans, Ryan, who turns 34 on May 17, will be the Falcons' signal-caller through at least 2023, given that he signed a five-year, $150 million contract ($100 million guaranteed) before the start of this season. Ryan will be 38 in '23.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn addressed how comforting it is to have no doubts about his franchise quarterback.

"It's very reassuring knowing that there's obviously some things that we need to reset on, but that's not one," Quinn said of the position. "And that's a damn good feeling knowing that not only is he playing really good football, like the things that you don't see on the stat sheet and his ability to step up and make plays and those things, he's the ultimate competitor."

If Ryan plays at least until he's 40 and somehow keeps the same yearly pace going, he could reach 75,000 career passing yards. Brees currently is the NFL's all-time leading passer, after surpassing Peyton Manning's 71,940.

"I love playing," Ryan said. "I love competing and doing all those things. But I've got a long way to go between now and then. A lot of things, I know, can happen in this sport. But if I'm able and I'm healthy, I'd love to."

The Falcons' backup quarterback, 37-year-old Matt Schaub, spoke about the prospect of Ryan playing into his 40s.

"Yeah, I can see him doing that, but there are a lot of factors that go into it," Schaub said. "The way the game is nowadays, you can play a little bit longer than maybe you could have in the past. Just the way offenses are built, the way you get rid of the ball, you're not holding the ball taking hit after hit. You're getting the ball out, protecting yourself and getting it to your playmakers. Offenses are not trying to throw it down the field every single play.

"And most teams run the ball fairly well. That will help the quarterback's longevity when you can consistently run the ball. And your quick passing game can be effective, like your screen game. There's no reason why you can't play the game longer."

Aaron Rodgers, 35, of the Green Bay Packers is another guy like Ryan who has a few years to go before reaching 40. Rodgers addressed the age topic after he signed a record-breaking, four-year, $134 million extension through 2023.

"To get from where I'm at now to 40 will be a grind, but I've learned a lot over the last few years," Rodgers told reporters. "I've talked a lot about it. My offseason and in-season routines have definitely allowed me to feel better, and it doesn't equate to anything more than feeling and energy and strength when I'm out there."

Those Ryan and Rodgers matchups should be intriguing even when both are in their 40s.

ESPN Packers reporter Rob Demovsky contributed to this story.