The best word to describe Matt Birk's feelings toward playing his 200th game Sunday vs. the Dallas Cowboys?
"I had no idea until you told me," said Birk, 36, the Ravens' starting center in his 14th NFL season after spending his first 10 with the Minnesota Vikings. "The game takes a toll but I've been very fortunate as far as my health. No serious injuries. Certainly some good fortune involved."
He did have a series of surgeries on both hips while in Minnesota, but Birk played through it. He's the elder statesman on a Baltimore offensive line that has grown younger.
Coach John Harbaugh wasn't aware of the 200th game either. He made light of it.
"That's not something that we were aware of," he said. "This is his 200th game, this week? Well, we're just going to have to have a little party. ... Obviously Matt didn't want us drawing attention to that. So since that's the case, we'll make sure we give it our full attention."
Birk attributes his longevity to being in a good situation with Minnesota. He learned a lot from then-Vikings center Jeff Christie, who was the starter when he arrived as a rookie in 1998.
"I got to watch him for two years. Great guy to learn from. Took his preparation very seriously," Birk said. "He wasn't the biggest guy. He wasn't the fastest guy. He made Pro Bowls. He made the most out of what he had. He understood the game and understood his game.
"Being able to see that, look at that for two years, 'OK, that's what it looks like,' not just (hear) talk about it. Being able to see it was important."
How much longer can Birk do this?
"Three hundred," Birk said, jokingly. "No. You don't think about it. It's hard to predict the future especially in football. Just grateful really for today and the opportunity to be part of this team and organization.
"It's not like this everywhere. It's my fourth year here and every year here we've had a chance. That's all you can ask for is a chance to contend for a Super Bowl and it's up to you to make the most of the opportunity."