BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Two Baltimore Ravens players receive top honors. Center Matt Birk was named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year and linebacker Terrell Suggs has been named the 2011 Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year.
The Walter Payton award recognized Birk for his playing excellence as well as his community service. He will be honored Sunday before the Super Bowl kick-off.
“This award is not about the recipient, but rather a celebration of the decades-long tradition of NFL players using their unique platform to touch lives and make a positive and lasting impact in the communities in which they work and live,” Birk said. “I have always considered it a privilege to play in the NFL and serve the communities that support our game.”
Birk has played 14 seasons in the NFL. He helped Ravens’ running back Ray Rice to score a record 15 touchdowns and rush for a career-high 1,364 yards.
Birk promotes youth literacy with the “Ready, Set, Read!” program through his H.I.K.E. Foundation, motivating almost 100,000 children in the Baltimore area to read at home through an incentive-based system. He also plans to donate his brain and spinal cord tissue after his death to the Boston University School of Medicine to facilitate research on the effects of repeated head traumas.
Birk has won this award eight times and was a finalist in 2008.
Suggs’ award recognizes his AFC-best and career-high 14 sacks of the year and NFL-high seven fumbles that set a franchise single-season record. He was also instrumental in the Ravens’ advance to the AFC championship game.
“Our fans are the NFL’s best. I’ve always said that I play for our fans, and this honor is a tribute to them,” Suggs said.
Suggs contributed to his team’s stingy defense that ranked third in the NFL in fewest points permitted for the fourth consecutive year.
“He showed the rare ability that we all know he has,” said the Ravens’ linebackers coach Ted Monachino. “He was technical, physical, tough and explosive in nearly every phase of his game. People see the sack totals and know he is a special player, but it’s all the other parts of the game that prove, week-in and week-out, what a valuable player he is for our defense and for our team.”