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Ravens' Birk happy not to be center of attention

Ravens' Birk happy not to be center of attention

NEW ORLEANS (AP) 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 on Sunday.

And then, after his 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. He was healthier this year and he played really well. I know I was always straining to get a higher grade than he did each week. He played last year's championship game while he was hurting.''

Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis determined a couple of months ago that this would be his last season and announced Jan. 2 that he will retire after the playoffs. Lewis has received much attention and accolades these past few weeks as he reaches the end of his career.

``It's fitting. He's a legend. He's one of a kind,'' Birk said. ``The way that he did it kind of gives the fans and everybody the chance to kind of go through the experience with him.''

Birk, on the other hand, plays a position that receives very little fanfare, and he's not asking for any in what could be his final season. Besides, he insists he hasn't decided definitively on his future - in part because he wouldn't know what to do if he couldn't strap on the shoulder pads and buckle up the chin strap.

``People say, `What are you going to do when you're done?' and that's probably why I'm still playing,'' he said. ``The unknown is scary in some ways. You're never going to be able to replicate some of the feelings, some of the emotions that you get playing this game. But ... if this is as good as it gets for you, then you're in trouble. You need to realize all of this is going to be gone someday. It ends for everybody.''

Birk will be 37 when the Ravens open training camp. There's a good chance some TV guy will insist during the Super Bowl that Birk won't be back, but the reality is that he's in no rush to decide.

``Whatever's going to happen is going to happen,'' Birk said. ``(My wife is) a planner. She likes everything planned out. She asks me all the time, `Is this it?' I say, `I don't know.' It makes her mad. She wants to know. She's like everybody else.''

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Baltimore Ravens' 2018 regular season matchups, dates and times

Baltimore Ravens' 2018 regular season matchups, dates and times

We've known the Ravens' 2018 preseason and regular season opponents for some time now, but the NFL finally released their full schedule with exact dates and times.

As they do every year, the Ravens will be seeing the Bengals, Steelers and Browns twice. 

For the ninth consecutive year, Week 16 and 17 will be divisional games with playoff implications.

The Ravens will also be playing in the Pro Football Hall of Fame preseason game against the Chicago Bears in Canton, Ohio, bringing an extra preseason game to their schedule.

In the regular season, the birds will be flocking south to take on the Panthers, Falcons and Titans. They haven't seen the Panthers or Falcons since 2014 - both ending in wins - and came up just short against the Titans in their 23-20 loss last season.

The Ravens will only have to travel to the west coast once when they take on the Los Angeles Chargers, who they last saw in 2015 and earned a 29-26 win.

Not including AFC North rivals, the last time the Ravens saw their remaining five home opponents they came away with wins. Hopefully history will repeat itself.

Prime-time games, which the Ravens have two of, will kick off at earlier times than in the past. Monday Night Football will now start at 8:15 p.m. while Thursday and Sunday Night Football will start at 8:20 p.m.

Ravens 2018 Regular-Season Schedule:

Week 1: Sunday, 9/9 vs. Bills, 1:00 p.m.

Week 2: Thursday, 9/13 @ Bengals, 8:20 p.m.

Week 3: Sunday, 9/23 vs. Broncos. 1:00 p.m.

Week 4: Sunday, 9/30 @ Steelers, 8:20 p.m.

Week 5: Sunday, 10/7 @ Browns, 1:00 p.m.

Week 6: Sunday 10/14 @ Titans, 4:25 p.m.

Week 7: Sunday, 10/21 vs. Saints, 4:05 p.m.

Week 8: Sunday 10/28 @ Panthers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 9: Sunday 11/4 vs. Steelers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 10:  BYE week

Week 11: Sunday 11/18 vs. Bengals, 1:00 p.m.

Week 12: Sunday 11/25 vs. Raiders, 1:00 p.m.

Week 13: Sunday 12/2 @ Falcons, 1:00 p.m.

Week 14: Sunday 12/9 @ Chiefs, 1:00 p.m.

Week 15: Sunday 12/16 vs. Buccaneers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 16: Saturday 12/22 or Sunday 12/23 @ Chargers, TBD

Week 17: Sunday 12/30 vs. Browns, 1:00 p.m.


PRESEASON 

Hall of Fame Game: Thurs., 8/2, vs. Chicago Bears (Canton, OH), 8:00pm (NBC).

Week 1: Thurs., 8/9, vs. Los Angeles Rams

Week 2: Mon. 8/20,  at Indianapolis Colts (Monday Night Football, ESPN).

Week 3: at Miami Dolphins*

Week 4: Thurs., 8/30 at Washington Redskins

* - Game date and time not yet determined

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As 2018 NFL Draft approaches, Ravens to host QB Lamar Jackson per report

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As 2018 NFL Draft approaches, Ravens to host QB Lamar Jackson per report

With 10 days until the 2018 NFL Draft, quarterback Lamar Jackson is set to visit the Ravens this week, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. 

The former Heisman Trophy winner is a projected first-round pick as he has proven to have success in the air and on the ground. 

While at Louisville, Jackson had 9,043 passing yards and 69 touchdowns. He also rushed for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns. His NFL draft profile compares him to Michael Vick. 

RELATED: BEST QUOTES FROM RAVENS PRE-DRAFT PRESS CONFERENCE

The Ravens are in search of Joe Flacco's successor, but spending a first-round pick on a quarterback when there are other glaring needs is up in the air. However, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta isn't ruling out the possibility

"I feel like if there is a guy there that we think is really too good to pass up, we're going to take him," DeCosta told the team's website on the chance of drafting a quarterback in the first-round.

At their pre-draft press conference, GM Ozzie Newsome and DeCosta kept reiterating we could be surprised by who they pick at No. 16, if they do at all. 

While Jackson's numbers are impressive, he continues to be considered a late first-round pick as his build isn't up to typical NFL QB standards and scouts are concerned with his accuracy. What he does have in his favor is speed.

While fans are hoping for an offensive weapon, having Jackson learn under Flacco for a year (and maybe RGIII?) could rev up some excitement. 

RELATED: RGIII READY TO MOVE FORWARD AS NEW, GROWN PLAYER