Matt Ryan isn't apologizing for benefiting from a system that allows top NFL draft picks to receive massive contracts. Even so, he appreciates where Roger Goodell was coming from last week when the commissioner questioned paying millions in guaranteed salary to rookies who have yet to play a down in the league.
"You can also understand the other side of it, the concern of veterans who have been in the league 10, 12 years and proven themselves but not seen the money," Ryan said in a phone interview Tuesday. "I can understand both sides."
The third pick in this year's draft, the quarterback signed a $72 million, six-year contract with the Atlanta Falcons that included $34.75 million in guaranteed pay.
All that money means first-year players need to quickly develop a lot of financial savvy. On Monday night, Ryan and his fellow draft picks participated in a presentation by Visa about credit scores during the NFL Rookie Symposium in Carlsbad, Calif.
Ryan said players were chatting afterward about the concept of assets vs. liabilities -- how some purchases, such as a house, generate wealth, while others decline in value over time.
Most people can afford to make some financial mistakes early in adulthood because they'll have a long career and their peak earnings won't come for a couple of decades, said Lisa Withers, Visa's national financial literacy educator. But for professional athletes, there's little room for error, since their highest incomes may come for a few years in their early 20s.
Withers emphasized that a low credit score can burn a player no matter how much money he makes. Veteran quarterback Drew Brees learned that the hard way early in his career. In a phone interview Tuesday, he recalled how he failed to pay a cell phone bill and it went to collections.
"It took me my first couple of years in the league to learn through experience," he said.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press