Babineaux hoping Falcons boost defense in draft

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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