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Babineaux hoping Falcons boost defense in draft

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP)

Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux said Tuesday he'd like to see the Falcons make defense their top priority in this week's NFL draft.

Some important names were missing from the 2012 defense when Atlanta returned this week to begin its offseason program. Defensive end John Abraham and cornerback Dunta Robinson were released. Cornerbacks Brent Grimes and Chris Owens and defensive tackle Vance Walker left as free agents.

Defensive end Osi Umenyiora signed a two-year deal with Atlanta, but still Babineaux sees holes to fill as players returned to the training facility.

The Falcons have the 30th pick in the first round Thursday night. The team could look for help at cornerback or another pass-rusher.

''I'm hoping we're maybe leaning that way,'' Babineaux said. ''We're kind of short on the defensive side right now.''

The Falcons were 13-3 in 2012 and beat Seattle in the playoffs before a close loss to San Francisco in the NFC championship game.

The team also has significant losses on offense. Running back Michael Turner was cut, but Steven Jackson was signed as his replacement. Center Todd McClure retired and right tackle Tyson Clabo was released. The team re-signed left tackle Sam Baker.

Quarterback Matt Ryan said Tuesday the moves created opportunities for such young offensive linemen as Mike Johnson, Garrett Reynolds, Lamar Holmes and Peter Konz. Holmes could have the first shot to replace Clabo.

''It's an opportunity for those guys to step into those roles, and I think they're certainly capable of doing that,'' Ryan said.

Konz started 10 games at right guard as a rookie in 2012 but could move to center this year.

The offseason program, which began Monday, is designed to prepare players for the start of organized team activities May 28.

Ryan said he has fully recovered after spraining his left shoulder late in the NFC championship game loss. The injury kept him out of the Pro Bowl.

''Usually I take some time immediately following the season just to get out of here and to take some time away from here,'' he said. ''With the situation I was in at the end of the season, I was here I think for six or seven weeks before I even took a week to get away from here. That's just part of how it goes.

''After I got through those seven weeks, I was able to start training and get back in shape and do the things I wanted to do.''

The six-year, $66 million contract Ryan signed with Atlanta as a rookie in 1998 expires after the 2013 season. General manager Thomas Dimitroff has said the Falcons hope to complete a new deal with Ryan before the season.

The contract talks are expected to resume after the draft.

''In all honesty it's not something I've worried about or thought about or kind of let my mind go away from the things that are important,'' Ryan said. ''Since I've been here I've been focused on taking care of business on the field.

''I think in these situations you let smart people handle that stuff and you stick to what you know. What I know is going out there and trying to be the best football player I can be. All that stuff, I think, will take care of itself. I'm not too worried about it. I've said it to everybody, I want to be here. It's home. It's where I want to be.''

Safety William Moore participated in the workouts Tuesday after his release from jail on $2,500 bond Friday. He was arrested on a misdemeanor simple battery charge Thursday.

Atlanta police said officers were called to a Northwest Atlanta address when Moore and a woman were involved in an argument.

Moore, a Pro Bowl alternate with Atlanta in 2012, was a free agent before signing a five-year, $32 million deal, with $14 million guaranteed, to remain in Atlanta.

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Online: http://pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Tagged: Falcons, Jonathan Babineaux, Matt Ryan, William Moore

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