NEW ORLEANS Matt Birk was done a year ago, ready to retire. Or so it seemed. Former NFL general manager Charley Casserly told a vast television audience before Baltimore’s first playoff game that Birk would step into retirement after the Ravens completed their postseason run.
“That report didn’t come from me,” Birk said recently with a smirk.
Obviously not. The veteran center decided last offseason to return for at least one more year, and now he’s poised to play in his first Super Bowl today.
And then, after he caps his 15th NFL season by banging helmets against the defensive line of the San Francisco 49ers, Birk will determine once again whether to take his scarred and weary body into retirement.
“I mean, I always say that I’m playing until I’m not,” the 36-year-old Harvard grad said in the days leading up to the Super Bowl. “Every year is just exhausting, and after the way our season ended last year [a loss in the AFC title game], it takes a while to process those emotions.
“For me, before my physical well-being, if I feel like I can do it again or if I want to do it, I need to make sure that it’s good for my family. It’s a big sacrifice on their part, on my wife, and I have six kids. You have to coordinate a lot of things and you have to make sure everybody is on board.”
A year ago, Birk and his family reached an agreement: He would give it go. So, after surgery to repair varicose veins in his leg, the six-time Pro Bowler showed up to training camp to mount one more charge to play in his first Super Bowl. Birk started all 16 games and was part of an offense that scored a franchise-record 398 points.
“He’s 100 percent pro,” Ravens guard Marshal Yanda said. “He always takes care of his body. He’s had the kind of career we are all chasing.”