By Larry Fine
HOUSTON (Reuters) - The Atlanta Falcons, preparing to battle the New England Patriots in Sunday's Super Bowl, brought along another game to help keep themselves loose ahead of the title clash.
The Falcons have imported their table tennis craze to Houston, a pastime that has helped the players bond, while stoking their competitive drive.
Quarterback Matt Ryan, the leading candidate for National Football League MVP honors, said on Tuesday that after going through some game films the players would have the rest of the day free for relaxation - and some table tennis.
"We’ve got a pretty good setup with our game room," Ryan told reporters. "There’s some ping pong going on, which you guys who have been in the locker room know that’s a big thing for us at (team complex in) Flowery Branch. And so, it has been fun.”
"I brought my paddle. It gets pretty intense. We had some fun with that last night after Media Night. We played a little bit of ping pong and had a good time."
As part of an offseason redesign, the Falcons replaced a row of lockers in the middle of the room with a table tennis table and it became such a hit with players that they added another two and now take the game on the road.
Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said head coach Dan Quinn loves to encourage competition.
"That's just another fun thing to bring us closer together, and we have fun with it," said Jarrett. "When it's time to work, we work. When it's to compete in other things, we do that too.
"Everything is about competition, what we do. It's like you got competitors in the locker room, so in between meetings just do a little thing of competition. You know that's Coach Q's thing - everything about competing. So it's fun."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)