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Matt Birk Playing Well, Not Thinking Of Stopping


It's that time of the year for Matt Birk.

It's the time when reporters ask the 36-year-old center if he's going to retire after the season.

"Hold on, I'm checking the eight ball," Birk said with a smile Saturday.

As Birk prepares for his first Super Bowl in his 15th season, it's anybody's guess as to whether this is his final run. Even Birk hasn't decided what to do. It's not that he is running out the argument that he's only focused on playing the game. It's that he truly doesn't know.

"I'm just trying to live in the moment," Birk said. "That's just kind of my mindset. It drives my wife nuts, but that's just not how I operate."

Why should Birk retire?

Head Coach John Harbaugh said Birk is playing at a very high level. He more than held his own against New England's Vince Wilfork in the AFC championship, a matchup he lost a year ago.

"To my eye, he is playing the best football that he's played since he's been here – right now, at this point," Harbaugh said. "To have that be true at the end of a 24-game season is very impressive."

Birk didn't miss a start for the seventh consecutive season. He joked that he can probably count on one hand how many times he's been in the training room.

"I don't tape my ankles or wrists or anything," Birk said. "I walk through [the training room] and grab Q-tips and clean my ears."

The Ravens drafted Birk's eventual replacement, Gino Gradkowski of Delaware, in the fourth round last year. Gradkowski showed a flash that he's ready for the big-time with a standout game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17.

But Baltimore also re-signed Birk to a three-year contract this past offseason. So he still has two years left on his deal if he and the team want him to continue.

"I'm not sure about Matt's plans, and if he decides to come back next year, that'd be awesome," Harbaugh said. "Matt Birk has been a huge part of this program for the last four years. He has been a huge part of Joe [Flacco's] development."

Birk has six children and a wife at the top of his priorities. But he's also still enjoying football – especially as the Ravens are winning and headed to the Super Bowl.

That allows him to keep pushing off his inevitable retirement.

"Most of my friends through football, guys my age, are done playing," Birk said. "They always tell me, 'Never retire. Take it from us. The damage to your body is already done so keep going. The real world is not all it's cracked up to be.'

"This is a pretty unique way to make a living. You've got to enjoy it, because you work too hard not to enjoy it."

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