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Ryan within striking distance of Bartkowski's touchdown mark

The SportsXchange

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is not one to be preoccupied with statistical data.

With another stellar season, Ryan is primed to become the franchise's career leader in touchdown passes.

Ryan needs 27 touchdowns passes to tie Steve Bartkowski's mark of 154. Ryan has thrown 32, 29 and 28 touchdowns passes in each of the past three seasons.

Bartkowski was the first player selected in the 1975 draft. He played for the Falcons from 1975 to 1986 and guided the team to the playoffs three times.

"Certainly, it's great to be in company with Bart," Ryan said. "He was obviously an awesome player in his time. He's probably the premier quarterback to have ever played here in Atlanta. But he's also a great guy and I've gotten to know him well."

Ryan started his assault on the team's record books last season, setting season franchise records for passing yards (4,719), pass attempts (615), completions (422), touchdown passes (32) and 300-yard games (seven) en route to his second career Pro Bowl selection.

Ryan's 56 career wins are the most by any quarterback in his first five seasons in NFL history.

But Ryan, who's in line for a contract extension, doesn't want to get consumed by the numbers.

"If you are worrying about statistics and records and all of those kinds of things, it takes away from being able to do the job the best that you can," Ryan said. "I don't worry about it too much, but it's certainly nice to be mentioned in the same sentence with Bart."

Ryan was the third player and first quarterback taken in the 2008 draft. Sixteen picks later, the Baltimore Ravens selected Joe Flacco.

Both have had fine starts to their careers, but now that Flacco has won a Super Bowl and landed a six-year, $120.6 million contract, the stage is set for Ryan to join him in the $100 million club.

"I'm not going to comment on somebody else's deal," Ryan said. "He certainly is a good player. He won a Super Bowl last year and I'm certainly happy for him."

The Falcons and Ryan have a happy marriage and both sides want it to continue as he's set to enter into the final year of his original six-year contract. Both parties would ideally like to have it completed before the start of training camp in late July.

"You know, I'll leave that to my agents and the front office," Ryan said. "Those guys will get that stuff done."

While Ryan is in line for a lucrative deal, he believes a great deal of his success can be attributed to the team surrounding him with offensive weapons like Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, Julio Jones, Michael Turner and now Steven Jackson.

"As a quarterback, you love having guys around you," Ryan said. "I've said it for a long time; it's just my job to try and get the ball in their hands when they are in position to make a play. When you have guys on the outside who can do that, it's a lot of fun."

One thing will change for Ryan in 2013. Veteran center Todd McClure, who helped teach him how to read NFL defenses, has retired. Ryan is now working mostly with second-year man Peter Konz.

"On the practice field, we've gotten a lot of work together," Ryan said. "He's a mature guy for a young player. He takes it really seriously. He's a really hard worker, and he's extremely smart. Those are all qualities that you really want from your center."
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