Birk Settles In With Ravens Family

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Matt Birk knew the biggest move of his life was going to be difficult, but it still wasn't a tough decision.

The St. Paul, Minn., native was formally introduced as the new Ravens center Thursday in front of a slew of Baltimore media and the family he will have to relocate over 1,000 miles from home.

Speaking on behalf of wife, Adrienna, and four young children – Madison (6), Sydney (3), Ava (2) and Grant (9 months) – Birk said he was excited about the change even though he spent the past 11 seasons playing for his hometown Minnesota Vikings.

"I just think this is a perfect fit," said Birk, who signed a three-year contract. "From the second I got here, I could just sense that I really feel like there's something special here.

"Personally, for my family and me, we're Minnesota born and bred. We'll always be from there, but this is exciting and a great opportunity. We are leaving our comfort zone and getting a fresh start. I think that's important. It's going to be a great adventure for our family, and we're happy to be a part of the Ravens' family as well."

Birk cited the Ravens' young, developing offense and the chance to work with talented quarterback Joe Flacco as reasons to leave the only team he's known for a club that reached the AFC Championship last year.

And despite his six Pro Bowls and strong reputation around the NFL, Birk does not expect to be given anything.

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"What I need to do is, I need to fit in here, get to work, see exactly how things are done and fall into line," he stated. "That's what I'm looking forward to. I'm the new guy, so I have to prove myself and earn everybody's respect.

"For me, that's exciting. When you leave your comfort zone, it's a little bit scary, but I'm certainly embracing the opportunity and approaching it with a lot of enthusiasm."

Birk's skills on the football field are well-documented. Known for being smart – as a Harvard degree in economics can attest – and tough, Birk has not missed a start in three years.

At 6-foot-4, 309 pounds, Birk also has the size to hold up to some of the massive nose tackles around the AFC North, like the Cleveland Browns' Shaun Rogers and the Pittsburgh Steelers' Casey Hampton.

For the Ravens, acquiring a player of Birk's caliber was critical after Jason Brown signed a lucrative free-agent contract with the St. Louis Rams last week.

"[Success] begins with the quarterback on offense," said general manager Ozzie Newsome. "We think we were able to get that fixed last year with Joe, and we're just excited about his future. But once you get that fixed, you have to start thinking of the importance of the offensive line.

"Having a young player like Jared [Gaither] playing left tackle and some young interior guys, we think a big part of the puzzle is the center position, playing against the people in our division, for the most part 3-4 teams. It's very important to have the center position taken care of."

Birk said he felt that warm welcome from the first time he talked to Harbaugh to the dinner he and Adrienna had Wednesday evening with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and offensive line coach John Matsko and their respective wives.

"From the moment we got here, it's just been like a snowball. I don't know if I can pinpoint one exact moment, but I've been nothing but impressed. It just felt right. The whole time we've been here, it just felt right. When Adrianna went home yesterday morning, she was smiling, she was nodding like, 'Yep.' That was the last blessing that I needed."

Of course, it wasn't all about family. Birk knows he has to prove it on the field.

As Burke's kids played in the front row during the news conference, head coach John Harbaugh looked down at them with a chuckle, and then back up at the cameras to sum up the signing.

"He's our kind of guy," he said. "You talk about playing like a Raven – tough, physical, hard-nosed football, smart, intelligent, high-character person. He is a family man, obviously. We couldn't be more excited.

"It'd be hard for me to describe how excited we were in our building yesterday when Matt made the decision to become a Raven, the place was up for grabs. We couldn't be more thrilled or more excited. We think we're moving forward.

"We are a better football team today than we were yesterday, by far."

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