‘Are you sure you’re 39?!’
Saskatchewan Roughriders’ head coach Craig Dickenson overheard players in the Mosaic Stadium locker room questioning Jon Ryan’s age.
“He looks ripped, he’s strong. That California living has been good to John. He’s looking lean and mean,” Dickenson said after watching his punter for over two weeks in training camp.
Just before the lockdown hit, Ryan put a gym in his Los Angeles area home. He was working out every day and preparing for the return of CFL football. Ryan was also training in Carlsbad, Calif. with former NFL kicker John Carney three to five days per week during the pandemic and year-and-a-half away from Regina.
“I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life. I’m ready to get the real games going, it’s a long time without a game,” Ryan said.
“He’s punting the heck out of the football. He knows what we expect of him, so it’s not new. He just really enjoys being a pro athlete. He came in looking great,” Dickenson said.
The 39-year-old Ryan punted 107 times for 3,783 yards — 48.8-yard average — with a long of 77 yards while playing all 18 regular season games for Saskatchewan in 2019. He was named a West Division all-star for his efforts during his first season with his hometown team.
“When I was training for the 2019 season, I was training for the NFL season, trying to get tryouts and when that didn’t happen I signed in the CFL — it happened pretty quickly,” Ryan said.
“I didn’t necessarily have all the punts in my bag that I wanted and I was able to develop some of those punts this off-season, adding two or three different punts that are going to be very good for my game and punt team.”
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers originally selected Ryan in the third round, 24th overall, of the 2004 CFL Draft. Ryan handled the punting duties for two seasons, leading the league with a 50.6-yard average in 2005. NFL teams took notice of Ryan’s strong leg and Green Bay signed him to a contract.
Ryan spent two seasons with the Packers. After that, Ryan moved on to Seattle for 10 seasons, including a Super Bowl championship in 2014 — becoming the first person from Saskatchewan to win an NFL title. He punted 914 times in the NFL for 40,895 yards and a 44.7-yard average with 311 punts inside the 20-yard line.
“There’s definitely more yesterday’s than tomorrow’s in my career going on 18 years now. Having more fun this year than I’ve ever had before and part of it is knowing there’s not too many of these left,” Ryan said.
“At this point you play it one at a time, I would love to play for longer. I have a super supportive wife [Sarah Colonna] back in LA who has no problem with me coming here and playing for six months a year. Right now I’m not thinking of this as my last season.”
Ryan earned over $14 million while playing in the NFL. His contract for 2021 included a $6,500 signing bonus with $12,000 in housing, $3,000 in travel allowance to go alongside a $67,000 base salary for $88,500 in hard money.
He can earn $3,000 or $1,500 each for being in the top three for gross punting average and net punting, respectively. While there is an additional $2,000 available for being named a West Division all-star, $3,000 for a CFL all-star selection and $3,000 for winning the league’s Most Outstanding Special Teams Player award.
“I’ve been very fortunate in my career to be able to play in the NFL for as long as I did that I’m out here for the love of the game. When the fun stops, then I’ll be done,” Ryan said.
“I love this province and being able to play for the team that I grew up cheering for, that just means the world to me. That’s the reason I’m here, when that’s no longer fun, then it’s going to be over.”
Ryan’s coach happens to be a special teams guru, however he’s not in to prognostications, but Dickenson can see the Regina native having the ability to play for at least two or three more years. The 49-year-old bench boss enjoys coaching Ryan and calls him a consummate pro.
“Certainly no one better out there right now as far as punting the football,” Dickenson said.
“If he keeps himself in shape and keeps himself motivated, I can see him playing for a few more years.”