A couple of days ago, the starting center for the Baltimore Ravens, Matt Birk, announced his retirement from the league. He will become the 2nd Ravens to retire after winning Super Bowl XLVII, along with LB Ray Lewis.
Birk was a 6th round pick of the Minnesota Vikings in the 1998 NFL Draft out of Harvard. By the 2000 season, he had taken over as the starting center for the Vikings. He played with the Vikings up until the 2009 season, when he signed with the Baltimore Ravens as a free agent.
The contract that Birk signed with the Ravens was worth $12 million over 3 years. During the offseason last year, Birk signed another 3 year deal to stay with the Ravens.
Over his 15 seasons (4 with the Ravens), Birk played in a total of 210 games and started 187 of them. He was a 6-time Pro Bowler and 2-time All-Pro, all came with the Vikings.
While Birk was clearly not the same center over the last few years as he was in Minnesota, he was still key to the Ravens offensive success. With all of his experience, Birk was able to help QB Joe Flacco become an “elite” quarterback. Birk was still making correct blitz pickup calls throughout the playoffs, it was just his blocking that dropped off, which comes with age.
His retirement will save the Ravens $2 million in cap room. This will be important as the Ravens are close to the cap without giving the free agent Flacco a new contract, which could be worth up to $20 million per year.
While Birk was an All-Pro on the field, he was just as good off the field. Throughout his career, Birk has been known for his work for charities and foundations. He set up the HIKE Foundation in 2002 and and the “Ready, Set, Read!” Foundation in 2010 after he signed with the Ravens. For all of his work off the field, Birk was awarded the 2011 Walter Peyton Man of the Year Award.
Going along with this attitude, Brik announced his retirement at the Battle Grove Elementary School in Baltimore. There were 40 5th grade students present and the media was behind them.
On his retirement at the school, Birk said “The reason that I wanted to do it here today was because I have enjoyed playing football, but as much as playing, I have enjoyed doing this [giving back to the community] as an NFL player. When I was a rookie … There are 53 guys on a team. I was like the 53rd guy. I was the worst player on the team, but I was on the team. That’s all that mattered. I went out and did a visit my first week with the Vikings. I went to a school, and all the kids were going crazy. They didn’t really know who I was. They just knew that I played for the Vikings, and I thought, ‘Wow. This is unbelievable.’ Like I said, this has been a big part of my career, and what I’ve enjoyed doing is coming to schools over the years and really being with young people like you guys. I get a lot of energy — get a lot of positive energy — from you guys and really enjoy it. I just thought that this would be a fitting place to do it.”