5:29 PM ET
Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer
- Covered Bears for seven seasons at Chicago Tribune
- Also worked at Chicago Sun-Times, Fresno Bee
- Honorable mention, Football Writers Association of America for enterprise writing, 2002
Ryan, currently in Atlanta, spent time with Gurley in Southern California in recent weeks.
“I’ve gotten to work with Todd and he’s awesome,” Ryan told ESPN. “Really, really good guy. A hard worker. He’s super-smart. The stuff I was telling him one day, the next day he had it done. I was really impressed with his ability to retain information. You don’t have to tell him twice. He’s on it.”
Ryan said the workouts occurred at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, which is where Ryan threw to former tight end Austin Hooper in previous offseasons. Gurley has been in the Los Angeles area since being released by the Los Angeles Rams and signing a one-year, $5.5 million contract with the Falcons that is still pending a physical.
Gurley has had issues with his surgically repaired left knee, but he expressed no concern about passing a physical. NFL rules currently prevent Gurley from having his physical conducted at the team’s facility during the coronavirus pandemic, but the league said Gurley is allowed to take it at the club physician’s office once he arrives in Atlanta.
Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said the Falcons have no doubt about Gurley’s talent, saying “we just have to see how healthy he is and how consistently he can do it.”
The Falcons signed Gurley, the 2017 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, with hopes he would have a resurgent season and boost a running game that ranked 30th in the league last season (85.1 rushing yards per game). The team cut ties with two-time Pro Bowl running back Devonta Freeman, who remains a free agent.
“I think he’s going to be an awesome fit for us,” Ryan said of Gurley. “And I’m glad we have him.”
Ryan’s offseason workouts, conducted both in the Atlanta area and in Southern California, have also included receivers Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage, tight ends Hayden Hurst and Jaeden Graham, and fullback Keith Smith. Running back Ito Smith, currently training in Houston, told ESPN he plans to join Ryan in the workouts as well.
Jones, who has posted six consecutive seasons with more than 1,300 yards receiving, typically spends offseason time training in California.
“He always looks great,” Ryan said of recent workouts with Jones. “He was working hard. It was good to spend some time together.”
The NFL has not determined when players will be allowed back at the facility due to the pandemic, although Falcons coach Dan Quinn returned to work Friday. The assistant coaches return Monday. The Falcons have relied on virtual meetings since the pandemic shut down operations, including organized team activities and minicamps.
“I’m ready to go back whenever,” Ryan said. “That’s been my mindset through this whole thing: to make this as normal of an offseason in terms of my training, my throwing, getting myself ready to go. Whenever they let us know, I’ll be ready to go. But I’m not informed enough to know or have a gut feeling for when that’s going to happen.”
The Falcons are scheduled to open the regular season at home against the Seattle Seahawks on Sept. 13.