'Grateful' Chris Lindstrom vows to stay motivated after securing record-breaking deal

Falcons guard Chris Lindstrom says his big contract will motivate him even more. Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports

Chris Lindstrom was on his way to paradise -- literally the Road to Hana in Hawaii -- when his phone started losing cell service in 30-minute intervals. This could have provided a sense of peace.

But for Lindstrom, it created stress because of what was happening thousands of miles away. His agent, Bradley Blank, and the Atlanta Falcons were finalizing the terms of his five-year, $105 million contract extension -- at $21 million average annual value, the most for a guard in NFL history -- and Lindstrom couldn’t connect.

So he and his fiancée and Falcons offensive lineman Matt Hennessy and his fiancée pulled over at a family restaurant so Lindstrom could use the WiFi to connect back with his agent and agree to his record-setting deal. They ate at the restaurant, Lindstrom said, before heading back on the road with a bunch more money and job security.

“We were at a national park just going for a walk,” Lindstrom told ESPN on Tuesday. “It was beautiful and I kind of joked with my fiancée, Madison, that we’re on the most beautiful road and beautiful place on the planet and somehow, it got even better.”

Lindstrom had been hoping for a deal to be done with the Falcons for a while. The feeling was mutual. They’d expressed as such publicly at the end of the season.

Over the last week, talks intensified to where it would likely happen before free agency started. Lindstrom said he didn’t set out to become the highest-paid guard in NFL history, but he understands what’s expected with the title.

“The only thing I can do is be incredibly grateful for Mr. [Arthur] Blank, Coach [Arthur] Smith, [general manager] Terry [Fontenot], really everybody in the building,” Lindstrom said. “That’s the stuff that really matters and I am appreciative and know that there’s responsibility with that in that I’m going to continue working as hard as I can to be the best player I can be and then also, it’s not going to change the effort and the style and everything else that I play with. None of that is going to change.

“But if anything, it’s more motivating after getting the contract. The cool part is I still love playing football.”

Lindstrom, 26, has started every game the last three seasons for Atlanta and became a first-time Pro Bowler last season. He’s one of the foundational players the Falcons have wanted to build around under Smith and Fontenot because of the example he sets in the locker room and the play he provides on the field -- including just one called holding penalty in four seasons.

And Lindstrom wanted to ensure he’d remain in a place that has become home since being selected with the No. 14 pick in the 2019 draft.

“The fact that I get to be here six more years and as it looks pretty much now that I get to spend my career here, I know that doesn’t happen to a lot of people,” Lindstrom said. “And especially to find somewhere that you love, I’m super grateful.”

With the record-setting deal agreed to in Hawaii, Lindstrom’s group still had the back half of their drive to Hana. They watched the sunrise the next morning at 5:30 a.m., and Lindstrom and his fiancée later boarded a plane bound for Atlanta to sign the deal.

It was a hectic 48 hours, traveling from Hawaii to San Francisco to Atlanta -- not sleeping the entire time -- to sign his contract Monday morning. He went to lunch at Aqua Terra Bistro in Buford, Georgia, after it became official to celebrate with his brother, father, fiancée and agent.

Then he got on a plane to travel back to Boston.

“I was out cold,” Lindstrom said. “Before the plane was even loaded.”