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Despite Size, Ratliff An Ironman At NT

A lot of people are of the opinion the Cowboys defensive line would be better off with Jay Ratliff kicking outside to end.

That much is debatable. One of the reasons to do so would be that moving away from the center and guard double-teams would help prolong his career. Ratliff was banged up by the end of 2011. Though he never appeared on the injury report, the team made sure to get him plenty of rest in games that weren't close down the stretch.

One thing about Ratliff, though, and the same is true for a couple of the Cowboys' other top players, the guy is dependable. In fact, he's held up as well or better than any true nose tackle in football right now.

Among all NFL defensive tackles, Ratliff has the fourth-longest active streak of consecutive games played, with 64. He's started all 64, too, the second-longest active starts streak at the position.

San Francisco's Justin Smith leads both categories, with 175 straight games played and 171 consecutive starts. It's worth nothing that Smith is really an end in the 49ers' 3-4 scheme, though he plays inside on occasion.

The only other tackles ahead of Ratliff in games played are Sione Pouha of the Jets and Aubrayo Franklin of New Orleans. Oakland's Tommy Kelly has also started 64 straight.

Ratliff hasn't missed a game since he was allowed to rest a knee injury in the 2007 season finale in Washington, a game that didn't matter since the Cowboys had already secured homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

Jason Witten's streak of consecutive starts is second in the NFL among tight ends at 83, three behind Tony Gonzalez. Keith Brooking has played the most games in a row of anyone on the team, 176, second best among linebackers. Bradie James is third, with 142, and DeMarcus Ware is fifth with 112.

Washington linebacker London Fletcher is the NFL's reigning ironman, with 224 straight games played and 179 consecutive starts.

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