So at a Houston restaurant, as Ryans waited for his Thai chicken to arrive, Smith explained to the Texans' two-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker that he had been traded to the Eagles. Ryans drove home, spoke on the phone with Eagles general manager Howie Roseman and head coach Andy Reid, threw some jeans and a suit into a bag, remembered to grab the green tie from the closet, and headed for the airport.
By 10:15 p.m., Ryans was landing in Philadelphia, his first-ever visit to the city. He was met by Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, who wanted to take Ryans out to dinner. They got to Del Frisco's, on Chestnut Street, just before closing, Ryans said. "I think we were the only people in there. It was late." He decided his meal with Smith would have to be reclassified as a very late lunch.
"Once I talked to coach [Reid] and to Howie, I knew it was a good fit," Ryans said. "When I was talking to them, it was like that draft process all over again - a team that wanted me here, so I was eager to get here. I felt the excitement and energy."
Castillo, the offensive line coach turned defensive coordinator, furthered that impression. "He's a passionate guy, passionate about football," Ryans said, when asked his first impressions of Castillo. "He's eager to get in there and start coaching."
Last month, Reid made it clear he was willing to give Castillo another chance of navigating the steep learning curve required when a career offensive coach moves to defense. By trading for Ryans, Reid and Roseman have given Castillo a much stronger hand to play than he held coming out of the NFL lockout last August, when fourth-round rookie Casey Matthews was Castillo's middle linebacker.
It's possible to debate whether Ryans might have permanently lost a little crucial quickness when he tore his Achilles' tendon in 2010. But what doesn't seem debatable is Ryans' reputation as a veteran leader, something lacking in the middle of Castillo's D.
In Reid's statement introducing Ryans at Wednesday's news conference, the coach noted that the guy sitting to his left was "a team captain of the Texans who actually had the nickname 'Cap.' " Reid added: "He is very worthy of that."
Roseman later said when he heard that Texans owner Bob McNair also called Ryans "Cap," that helped make Roseman sure this was the guy he wanted.
The dismay expressed by Ryans' Texans teammates - he ended up consoling fellow linebacker Brian Cushing over the phone sometime after 1 a.m., Ryans said - evokes memories of Brian Dawkins' departure from Philadelphia in 2009. Asked about that, Reid said the Texans' Smith actually mentioned Dawkins as a reference point, in extolling to Reid the caliber of man he was adding.
Reid said Dawkins and Ryans play different positions and have different personalities in some respects, but "some of the leadership and character that you're getting on and off the field I think are the same."
"He's been through it all," Roseman said. "He's been through the process of taking a young team and developing it into a playoff contender . . . Now [the Eagles' younger linebackers] have a person to go to who has this experience, that's had a lot of success in the National Football League. It just adds leadership and experience to that linebacker room . . . All the intangibles are off the charts."
Defensive leadership was notable by its absence at the start of last season, when the Birds were assimilating free agents and rookies, without the calming presence of departed safety Quintin Mikell, who had assumed Dawkins' role as best he could. Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, signed from the Packers, was a little leery of speaking up because he was new here, but Jenkins eventually stepped into the void. Now he has help.
"When there's something that needs to be said, that's when I'll say it," Ryans said. "But I don't have to stand up in a room like, 'Yeah, do what I'm doing, look at me!' That's not how you do things."
Eagles defensive end Jason Babin was Ryans' Texans teammate in 2006, when Ryans was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Asked what he thought of the deal, Babin, taking a break from a TV series shoot in Beaumont, Texas, that involved him helping rescue alligators from places they shouldn't venture, mentioned Ryans' leadership first.
"That's something you kind of really need at the middle linebacker position," Babin said. "We've got guys there who could do it, but when you're younger, it makes things harder, especially with the older teammates you have . . . That position took a lot of heat from the media. Hopefully, this'll remove that heat from that position.
"The guy works hard. He works his butt off. And he's not afraid to say something, if something needs fixing or changing."
Other veteran linebackers the Eagles have acquired over the years have had trouble picking up the defense right away. Supposedly, Castillo's defense isn't as complex as Jim Johnson's or Sean McDermott's, but Babin said he thought Ryans would be a quick study, regardless, even though the new offseason rules do limit the time he can spend with the coaches right now.
"He'll be in there studying tape, talking to the coaches as much as possible," Babin said. "I'm sure he'll immerse himself in our defense. He'll have it by the time the season rolls around."
Contact Les Bowen at email@example.com.