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Byrne Identity: Matt Birk Barfs; Ravens Train Seriously

Posted Aug 25, 2012

Kevin Byrne explores what it's like for pro athletes to train and transform their bodies.



Birk Barfs; Ravens Train Seriously

Matt Birk remembers the workout. It finished with him vomiting on his friend's "frog" rugs.

Yes, when you make your living as a pro athlete, you push your body to the limit to separate you from other athletes trying to take your job.

The Ravens have players who like training, who enjoy getting in the weight room, running in sand and other pursuits that take abilities to a higher level.

"We try to bring in players who like football and all the things that go with that," General Manager Ozzie Newsome said. "We don't just take the biggest and fastest guys and hope it all works out. We want players who love the physicality of the game. Guys you don't have to beg to get into the weight room or train in the offseason. Maybe this is what we mean when we say, 'He's a Ravens-type player.' That's a player who does the right things to be better and brings it every play, and does it willingly."

Newsome recruited Birk to be a Raven, because "Matt fit our profile. He's a Pro Bowl player, but after that, he keeps in great shape, he's smart and tough. He sets an example with the way he works."

Birk realizes the importance of pushing his body to higher levels. "It behooves me to do whatever it takes to continue to play at a high level. I'm always looking for ways to improve my training regimen, my diet, my sleep and lifestyle habits.

"I work with our strength coaches. I've read numerous books on diet and nutrition and applied those to my diet," Birk continued. "My wife (Adrianna) is involved and helps out. Really, I have a whole team helping me play this long."

The upchuck and the frog rugs? "The first day after the last game of my rookie year, I went over to our long snapper's house for a workout. Mike Morris was legendary for his training and, at 51 today, he's still in phenomenal shape. We trained legs and worked so hard that it made me throw up in his kids' bathroom, which was in the basement. I threw up all over, including on these rugs that were shaped like frogs. I tried to clean everything up, but couldn't get the rugs very clean. I rolled them up, took them home and cleaned them there."

Boldin Boxes

"One of the things that is underrated about good receivers is the ability to run all day," Anquan Boldin explained. "No one has ever defeated fatigue, but you can learn to manage it and push yourself to another level, to your limit. That's how I train. It sometimes leads to using IVs to restore my liquids, but that's the level I train. Games are easier that way.

"I also box in the offseason," Boldin added. "Not a lot of people have boxed, but I'm telling you, you spar 10 rounds, it's a beast, and I respect anyone who does that. Look, in order to perform well, you have to be healthy. To be healthy, you have to take care of your body. My body is my investment, and I keep investing in it."

Cody Changes Body

Terrence Cody, our third-year defensive tackle, has literally changed his body since we drafted "Mt. Cody" in the second round in 2010. "My body is my business, and I spend money to make money," Cody said with a smile.

"I have a guy who stretches me twice a week. I have another person that gives me a massage twice a week. I work with a nutritionist, our strength coaches and trainers. I use all the help available. My friends at home, when they see me now, they don't see 'Mt. Cody' anymore. It's more like 'Speed Bump' or 'Hill Cody.'"

Ayanbadejo Pushes The Limits

Linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo wants to be the most physically fit pro athlete. "My body and mind are my means of making money. This is serious business," he said. Brendon uses a hyperbaric chamber, "three or four physical therapists, because they all do different things. I have a massage therapist, a muscle-activation therapist. It's called 'MAT,' and I also do 'ART,' which is active release of your muscles.

"Then I have a trainer that trains me in my workouts," Ayanbadejo continued. "There's a strength and conditioning trainer, and I do a lot on my own. I love working in the weight room, biking, and I really enjoy sprint work outside. High intensity, interval training. And, I admit I do some things for aesthetics. I want to look good now and when I retire."

Welcome Back, Kemo

Ma'ake Kemoeatu admits to weighing nearly 400 pounds after signing a big contract with the Panthers in 2006. "My body is my vehicle in the NFL, my investment, and I let it get away," Kemo said. "I had to drop weight, 70 pounds, and I feel great right now. Ray Lewis has been a great example to me. He has gotten smaller as he has gotten older. That inspires me.

"I'm a strong man and worked at that, but I had to change the way I ate. I eat a lot of salad, fruit and fish now. It has paid off. I'm back in the league, and I think I'm playing better than when I was so big. I feel better than when I was just a young kid with the Ravens. I'm so excited to be here and proud of the work I did to make it back."

(We're happy Kemo is back, too. He has been impressive in training camp and should be a significant contributor to our defensive success, especially stopping the run.)

No Hazing Here

You might have heard about the Giants throwing teammates into the cold tub and the problems that caused for them. If you've watched "Hard Knocks," you've seen the Dolphins rookies being abused by veterans, including cutting and dyeing the young players' hair.

We don't do that here. We have fun, but our players seldom disrespect one another. Our rookies do sing and perform at team meetings. It's entertaining, but not demeaning. "No one deserves to be hazed," John Harbaugh said. "We're teammates. You can have fun without embarrassing someone, without intimidating."

And we've had fun in camp. We've seen Ed Reed in offensive huddles, Michael Oher and Terrence Cody catching punts that cancelled night meetings, Harbs lining up at corner, and players hooting and hollering as they watched a women's table tennis competition during the Olympics. I like the vibe with this team. They seem to have each other's backs. It's coming together. Think we'll be pretty good – again.

Talk with you next week,

Kevin

Please Note

The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on BaltimoreRavens.com represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Baltimore Ravens' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Ravens officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.