OWINGS MILLS — Six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk missed his fifth consecutive practice Friday due to back spasms, an ailment expected to keep him out until after the Baltimore Ravens’ first preseason game next week.
Birk underwent surgery during the offseason to address varicose veins in his legs.
Now, the 36-year-old is dealing with a back problem as the Ravens prepare for next Thursday’s preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome.
“Matt is resting,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “He had some back spasms, too. It’s probably both me and Matt. Matt has had the back spasms, but I’m going to probably slow him down a little bit more, especially this week. Maybe next week after the game, we will get him back a little bit more.”
Birk has a history of injuries in recent seasons, including issues with his knee, neck and elbow.
The Harvard graduate is durable, though, never missing a start since initially signing with the Ravens three seasons ago. Birk underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee last year during training camp, but was ready in time for the opening game against the Pittsburgh Steelers despite an abbreviated preseason.
The Ravens have been pleased with the work of rookie center Gino Gradkowski, a fourth-round draft pick from Delaware slated to back up Birk.
“He’s a young guy, physically,” Harbaugh said. “He’s very smart. He’s very tough. He’s very competitive, kind of a tough, mean nasty type of guy. We like his style.”