Ravens’ Birk plans to return in 2011

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OWINGS MILLS — Unless he experiences a medical setback or has an unexpected change of heart, Baltimore Ravens veteran center Matt Birk won’t be filing his retirement papers after deciding to play football for at least another season.

The six-time Pro Bowl center told coach John Harbaugh this week that he plans to return.

"Yeah, that’s my plan," Birk told Ravens24x7.com in a phone interview. "That’s assuming that everything heals up the way it’s supposed to. My desire is definitely there. I want to do it again and contribute. We really like it here, and we love the organization and love the team. We’ve got their support and I’ve got the family support. I should be good to go."

Birk, 34, battled knee and neck injuries last season, having his knee drained on a weekly basis. He has also dealt with elbow problems during the past two years.

Birk said he doesn’t need to have surgery, though.

"That’s still the case," he said. "I just need to continue to get treatment and rest it."

Birk was at the Ravens’ training complex Tuesday, lifting weights following a family vacation.

"I’m feeling pretty good," he said. "Once the Super Bowl is over, it’s a little easier to move on and start getting ready for the next season. I’ve been lifting weights for a few days."

Birk is entering his 14th NFL season. He hasn’t missed a start since the 2005 season, when he was sidelined for the entire year with a hip injury.

Birk and his wife, Adrianna, have five children. The Harvard graduate excused himself during the interview to referee a brief skirmish between the kids.

Signed to a three-year, $12 million contract that includes $6 million in guaranteed money and expires after next season, Birk is expected to return in part because he believes the Ravens are close to reaching the Super Bowl.

"Matt Birk is going to think this thing through and do what’s right for him," said Joe Linta, Birk’s agent. "If he plays, he’ll give it everything he has. Not only should the Ravens want Matt Birk to play, but Roger Goodell should want Matt Birk back because he’s what the NFL is supposed to be all about."

Part of the decision to play again involves dealing with more than the physical toll the game takes on Birk’s body, though it forced him to practice sparingly toward the end of the season as he was rested on Wednesdays.

Despite the health problems, Birk drew praise from Coach John Harbaugh following the Ravens’ recent season-ending press conference.

"I thought he played very well," Harbaugh said. "I was very concerned about him the last few weeks because that leg was really swollen up because of the bursa [sac]. I watched the tape against Pittsburgh and he was good.

"I can’t say he was knocking [Steelers nose guard Casey] Hampton off the ball, but he was controlling the inside pretty decently. For what he was dealing with, I don’t think it’s an age thing as much as it was the knee. I thought he did well."

Birk had to contemplate whether he wanted to emotionally go through another season after the Ravens’ devastating AFC divisional playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"At the end, you’re mentally, physically and emotionally drained," Birk said. "You’re also disappointed as well. Some time away does good for all those things. You get recharged and you get away. Once you physically feel better, it’s easier to have more enthusiasm again.

"Emotionally, it gets harder the older you get because you’ve got more years behind you than in front of you. When you don’t accomplish your goal, it’s little bit more disappointment. At the same time, that’s the way it is. You’ve got to process it and move on and get ready to play again."

 

This entry was posted in The Beat with Aaron Wilson by Aaron Wilson. Bookmark the permalink.

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson
Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and Ravens24x7.com. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best...more

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