The defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens will be even more hard pressed to repeat as champions with the news that center Matt Birk has retired.
The 15-year veteran was an anchor for the Ravens’ offensive line for the last four seasons, as he and Joe Flacco built a solid quarterback-center relationship. Birk’s veteran influence was also instrumental in the development of offensive linemen like Marshal Yanda, Michael Oher and Kelechi Osemele.
Birk was a sixth-round selection by the Minnesota Vikings in the 1998 draft. Birk was the first lineman to be drafted out of Harvard since 1985 and was viewed as a work in progress. However, Birk became one of the top centers in the league in short time, as he made his first Pro Bowl in 2000.
Birk would be a Pro Bowler five times in seven seasons from 2000-2007, and was named an All Pro in 2000 and 2003. He was one of the most respected and revered members of the Vikings for 10 seasons, as he claimed the Minnesota Vikings Man of the Year Award six times in his 10 seasons.
However, Birk became an unrestricted free agent in 2009 and the Ravens signed him to a three-year, $12 million deal to anchor a young yet talented offense. Although he wasn’t selected to a Pro Bowl during his tenure with the Ravens, Birk’s influence went beyond that of all-star selections.
Birk never missed a start in his four seasons with the Ravens, and didn’t miss a game the final seven seasons of his career. His mixture of toughness, Harvard-level intelligence and work ethic helped set a standard for a young Ravens’ offense. Even though Birk will no longer be a member of the Ravens, the impact he made will live on through the members of the Ravens’ offense who learned how to be a professional from Birk.
Considering what a class act Birk has been on and off the field, it is only fitting that he ride off into the sunset a champion.
Follow James on Twitter @JT3Sticks