Birk Shores Up Ravens at Center

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The Ravens came to an agreement in principle with center Matt Birk on a three-year contract.

Birk, a six-time Pro Bowler, will sign his contract Thursday morning, after which the Ravens will hold an introductory press conference.

The former Minnesota Viking will fill the spot vacated by Jason Brown, who signed with the St. Louis Rams last weekend.

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Birk, 32, is 6-foot-4, 309 pounds and known as a tough and veteran leader.

He was hosted at the Ravens' headquarters in Owings Mills, Md., the past two days, meeting with team officials as his wife, Adrianna, was shown houses in the area. Birk was then taken out to dinner with head coach John Harbaugh.

There was some question as to whether Birk would want to leave Minnesota, where he spent the first 11 years of his career. A native of St. Paul, Minn., Birk played his college football at Harvard before the Vikings selected him in the sixth round in 1998.

But he assured Baltimore reporters that he was seriously considering the move.

"I wouldn't be here if I didn't think it was a strong possibility," Birk said Tuesday. "Me and my wife wouldn't have come out here and looked around [if there weren't a good chance]."

Harbaugh had this to say in a statement issued by the team: "To add a player like Matt makes us a much better team."

Birk's signing also means that the Ravens don't have to shuffle their offensive line as much as originally thought.

Without Birk, Chris Chester may have stepped in at center or Marshal Yanda could have shifted from his right guard position.

Despite his veteran status, Birk is very durable. He took over as the Vikings center in 2000 and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl.

He then started all 16 games each year from 2001-03 before missing four games in 2004 during the regular season while coming back from hernia surgery.

Birk missed all of 2005 after having hip and sports hernia injuries following training camp, but he hasn't missed a start since over the past three years.

Off the field, Birk brings solid character to the locker room.

He is an active supporter of the Gridiron Greats, which aids former NFL players in financial and physical need. Birk donated $50,000 of his own money last year, and then sent a letter to each current player to encourage them to make contributions.

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