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Birk reaches career milestone

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Birk reaches career milestone

The best word to describe Matt Birk's feelings toward playing his 200th game Sunday vs. the Dallas Cowboys?

Oblivious.

"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."

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Reaction: Peter King picks Ravens 12th in 2019 Power Rankings

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Reaction: Peter King picks Ravens 12th in 2019 Power Rankings

With OTAs underway, Peter King has released his 2019 NFL preseason power rankings and of the biggest surprises is the Baltimore Ravens landing at No. 12 on the list. Although stud Lamar Jackson surprised people last season, given the substandard state of their defense and the burden on Jackson to shoulder the load offensively, King may have the Ravens ranked a few spots too high. 

Let's start with the defense; it's got more holes than a slice of swiss cheese. Most notably they lost linebacker Terrell Suggs, the heart and soul of their defense for the past decade. Although past his prime, Suggs is still a productive player and they will undoubtedly miss his leadership. They released defensive back Eric Weddle, who was coming off two straight Pro-Bowl appearances. Their justification was that he's 34 and by releasing him, they could allocate the money to re-signing All-Pro linebacker C.J. Mosley. Solid reasoning, if Mosley didn't sign with the New York Jets in the offseason.

Credit must be given, however, to the four-year, $55 million contract given to former Seattle Seahawks All-Pro safety Earl Thomas. Coming off a broken leg, he is easily the biggest X-factor for this defense. If he produces like the Earl Thomas of old, it'll more than makeup for the loss of the Weddle. They'll also be getting back defensive tackle Willie Reed from injury, who's young and hungry.

Although last years' defense was one of, if not the top unit in the NFL, all anyone could manage to talk about was the dynamic offense led by rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson. Coach John Harbaugh threw caution to the wind and handed the reins to Jackson in Week 10, and the Ravens proceeded to win six of their next seven games behind a run-dominated offense.

It's a toss-up if they'll be able to replicate that success this season. On the one hand, the unconventional attack took the league by storm last year and one could argue the league just needed time to adapt to this new-look offense. On the other hand, the Ravens did add some electric new pieces to the offense to replace the losses of wide receivers Michael Crabtree and John Brown. 

They added Mark Ingram who is one of the best dual-threat running backs in the league when healthy. Their first-round pick, wide receiver Marquise Brown, is one of the fastest players Todd McShay has ever evaluated. Third-round pick wide receiver Miles Boykin was one of the 20 fastest players at the draft and fourth-round pick  Justice Hill registered the fastest 40 time for running backs at the combine. Adding young, electric talent will enhance Jackson's already stellar playmaking ability. 

At tight end, they're one of the deepest teams in the NFL, headed up by Nick Boyle and Hayden Hurst. Keep in mind, however, that this is the NFL: it all starts with the quarterback. Jackson completed passes at a 58.2% clip last season. If the Ravens are serious about building around him, he'll have to improve as a passer. 

Taking the defensive deficiencies and questions on offense into account, and 12 is too high for the preseason power rankings; 16 is more appropriate. In his article, King writes about the Ravens saying, "They could win 11. They could win six." If I had to choose one outcome I'd take the latter. 

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: OTAs Day 1

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: OTAs Day 1

Kick off your Tuesday with the latest Baltimore Ravens news including a recap of the first day of OTAs.

Player/Team Notes: 

1. Yesterday, (Monday) was the first day of the Ravens' OTAs. OTAs continue today (Tuesday) as the Ravens work on developing a new offense. Check out some of the highlights here. 

2. The Baltimore Ravens have officially announced the full 90-man roster that will be competing for an official team roster spot in OTAs this summer. 

Looking Ahead:

July 15: 4 p.m. deadline to get a long-term deal done with designated franchise tag players.

The 2019 NFL schedule is set! See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

Credit: Baltimore Ravens for news points.

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