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Early Bird Report: Falcons have two of the NFL’s top 30 players who are over 30

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today’s Early Bird Report includes a pair of Falcons who landed on a recent ranking of the top players over 30 as well as Bucs defensive end William Gholston’s thoughts on his poor play last season.

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CBS Sports: The top 30 NFL players who are over 30

A lot of attention is paid to the youthful talent the Falcons boast, especially on defense, but they have some of the game’s top veterans as well. In a recent piece for CBS Sports, Sean Wagner-McGough ranked his 30 best NFL players over 30 years old. The Falcons had two players land right in the middle of this list.

Quarterback Matt Ryan, 33, is No. 16 on Wagner-McGough’s list. Ryan threw for 4,095 yards with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, but he was fairly unlucky when it came to tipped passes that eventually became interceptions.

One spot ahead of Ryan at No. 15 is Falcons center Alex Mack, who is 32. Mack has been one of the game’s top centers in his nine years in the NFL, and he’s continued to play at a very high level in Atlanta.

“Mack is one of the game's premier centers mainly because of his run blocking, though that doesn't mean he's bad at pass blocking,” Wagner-McGough writes. “He's been remarkably durable, playing in all 16 games during every season of his nine-year career except for 2014. And he's been to five Pro Bowls.”

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Tampa Bay Times: Bucs DE Gholston says ‘no excuse’ for crappy 2017 campaign

The Bucs were considered by some to be a strong contender for the postseason at this point last year, but they had a disappointing season and finished with a 5-11 record. Injuries certainly played a role in Tampa Bay’s struggles, though defensive end Will Gholston has been open about his performance during the team’s slide.

"I just played (crappy), completely. That's just being real," Gholston told Tampa Bay Times writer Greg Auman. "There's no excuse for it. It was awful, crappy. If I said it once, I said it a million times: It was a (crappy) year. I openly admit to it."

Gholston signed a five-year $27.5 million prior to the start of last season, his first with the Bucs, and he will be joined by several new faces this year. The team went to great lengths to re-configure its defensive line, which performed poorly against the run and finished last in the NFL with 22 sacks. Among the players the Bucs have added are Jason Pierre-Paul, Vinny Curry and first-round pick Vita Vea.

Here are some more articles from around the league:

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