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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 Roundup: DeCosta looking at 2019 NFL Draft as opportunity to address remaining needs

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: DeCosta looking at 2019 NFL Draft as opportunity to address remaining needs

Here's the latest Baltimore Ravens news as general managers and head coaches gather in Phoenix, Az for the NFL Annual League Meeting. 

Player Notes: 

- General manager Eric DeCosta likes the way the Ravens' secondary is looking with Jimmy Smith, and said it would be "foolish" to turn a strength on the team into a weakness by potentially parting ways with the cornerback.

“It’s a very fluid process," DeCosta said via the Ravens' website. "We’re in good shape right now salary-cap wise. Jimmy’s a good player. We’ve got a really, really good secondary and it’s a passing league. I think that’s important.”

Smith carries a $15.85 million salary cap hit in 2019.

- The Ravens are looking at the 2019 NFL Draft as an opportunity to address their needs at wide receiver and pass rusher, according to comments made by DeCosta Monday. Free agency brought the departures of Michael Crabtree, John Brown, C.J. Mosley, Terrell Suggs and Za'Darius Smith leaving huge holes to fill in both areas. 

- The door hasn't been shut on re-signing free agent defensive end Brent Urban. In 2018, Urban appeared in all 16 regular season games for the Ravens posting 27 combined tackles and two passes defensed. 

- QB Robert Griffin III is being sued by his former agent Ben Dogra for unpaid marketing and endorsement fees, according to Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports. Dogra claims RGIII owes him over $650,000 as part of an agreement for 15% share of marketing and endorsement deals negotiated while he was Griffin's agent. The QB fired Dogra back in 2018. 

- One of the many potential rule changes being discussed this week at the Annual League Meeting is expanding replays during a game. The potential rule change has come front and center after the NFC Championship game between the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams, and it's something head coach John Harbaugh is in favor of. 

“If we can put somebody up there in the box that’s got a better angle that can help officiate the game from up there, let’s do that," Harbaugh said back in January. "Because at the end of the game, it’s about the credibility of the sport.”

Click here to see a few of the potential changes being discussed. 

Looking Ahead: 

March 24-27: Annual League Meeting in Phoenix, Az.

April 15: Voluntary OTA's may begin

April 19: Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets

MORE RAVENS NEWS: 

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Get to know Earl Thomas and Mark Ingram

Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Get to know Earl Thomas and Mark Ingram

We are here to help you get your workweek started with the latest Baltimore Ravens news.

Player Notes: 

Running back Mark Ingram is bringing two Pro Bowls, 1,321 rushing yards and 50 rushing touchdowns to the Ravens, but there's a lot about him you may not know. Did you know that his father, Mark Ingram Sr., was drafted at No. 28 overall just like his son? Probably not. Here's five things to know about Ingram via the Ravens' website. 

Safety Earl Thomas isn't just talented on the field, but off the field as well. Thomas can play piano, drums, saxophone and the organ. During his freshman year of high school, Thomas would change out of his football uniform at halftime into his band uniform to perform and then back again. Here's five things to know about Thomas via the Ravens' website

Former Ravens wide receiver Jeremy Maclin is retiring from the game. The 30-year-old made the announcement at his wife's baby shower over the weekend. Selected 19th overall by the Eagles in the 2009 NFL Draft, Maclin played for the Eagles, Chiefs and the Ravens.

Outside linebacker Tim Williams is ready to be a defensive leader for the Ravens in 2019. With the departures of Eric Weddle, Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley and Za'Darius Smith in free agency, Williams is ready to be "that man" for the NFL's No.1 defense. 

Williams has yet to play a full season for the Ravens after being drafted in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. In 2018, the linebacker saw action in only sevens games due to hamstring and ankle injuries. 

In AFC news, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement from the league Sunday via Instagram. The 29-year-old finishes his career with 521 receptions for 7,861 yards, 79 touchdowns and three Super Bowl championship. 

Looking Ahead: 

March 24-27: Annual League Meeting in Phoenix, Az.

April 15: Voluntary OTA's may begin

April 19: Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets

MORE RAVENS NEWS: