By Samuel Njoku
Matt Birk, C, #77
Hometown: St. Paul, MN
Experience: 15 years
They say that pro football is a young man’s game. Once you hit the 30 year mark, teams are looking for your replacement. But once in a while, you meet the exception to that rule. Matt Birk is one of those exceptions. He’s finishing up his 15th season as a starter and is still considered one of the better Center’s in the game today. With the changes in the offensive line throughout the season due to injury and free agency, it is a good thing for Baltimore that Birk is still around. He provides instant stability for the offensive line.
Before Birk became an NFL star, he was a student at Harvard University. Not known for their athletics, Birk attended Harvard to obtain a degree in Economics. He would receive this degree in 1998 before declaring for the NFL Draft. The consensus around the league is that the best centers are usually the smartest. The Minnesota Vikings believed this to be the case and decided to draft him in the 6th round of the draft. As a Viking, Birk didn’t get the starting job until 2000. Of course, that was the year where he was named to his first Pro Bowl. With Birk at the Center, Minnesota possessed the best offensive line in the NFL. He made it hard for defenders to get to Daunte Culpepper back when he was tossing long balls to future Hall of Famer Randy Moss.
Birk would have great success with the Vikings organization. Overall, he would attain over six Pro Bowl selections. However in 2009, Birk would take his talents to the Inner Harbor where he would sign a three-year contract with the Baltimore Ravens. Since then, he has helped keep Flacco clean and pave the way for Ray Rice on gameday. With a young corps at the offensive side of the ball, Baltimore needs Birk to provide leadership on and off the field. He has done this at a considerably high level. Look no further than his recent nomination for the 2013 Bart Starr Award. The award is given to an NFL player who shows outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field and in the community.
The Ravens understand how much Birk means to their team. No one knows that more than Joe Flacco.
“[Matt Birk] is definitely valuable,” said Flacco. “Me and him are in constant communication and making sure that we see the things the same way so that I know when I have to get the ball out of my hands, I know when I am going to be protected. But, the communication that he has and the way he has to filter it throughout the guard and the tackles, that’s very important. I guess the importance is to have a guy that can do all that quickly and get it to everybody, relay it to them very quickly so that we can kind of run at a high pace.”
Matt Birk certainly has the skill to do just that. And with his 15th season slowly coming to a close, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he played for at least one more. With the stability he has given to a banged up offensive line, he remains one of the more valuable assets in the Ravens locker room.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.