Matt Birk has heard the talk that the Ravens offensive line is too old.
He just doesn't buy into it.
"I think it's a great compliment to be called too old in this league," Birk said after Tuesday's training camp practice. "There's really no substitute for experience."
The veteran center is heading into his 15th season, and he is one of the elder statesmen on the roster. Birk even joked that he told some of the younger players that back in his day they used to go "uphill to the practice field both ways."
Birk isn't the only Ravens lineman with years of experience behind him.
The Ravens are projected to have the oldest starting offensive line in the league. Along with Birk (36), Baltimore also has left tackle Bryant McKinnie (33), left guard Bobbie Williams (35), right guard Marshal Yanda (27) and right tackle Michael Oher (26).
The total age among those five projected starters is 157 years old, which is getting into dangerous territory, according to ESPN's John Clayton.
"If a team lets its starting offensive line exceed the total age of 150 years for five starters, the clock is ticking on its remaining success,"Clayton recently wrote.
Birk, however, sees the veteran presence along the Ravens line as a positive.
"Veterans can give valuable input, sometimes on scheme, but a lot of times on approach," Birk said.
The Ravens' core of linemen has achieved significant success in the NFL, as the group has eight Pro Bowl appearances between them. Birk, Williams, Yanda, McKinnie and Oher have all been consistent starters since coming into the NFL, and Yanda and Oher are in the prime of their careers.
"I think the veteran guys we do have are good guys, are right-way guys -- – guys that have made their way in this league doing things the right way," Birk said. "It's good examples for the younger players."
Those younger players are also fighting for playing time, as rookies Kelechi Osemele and Gino Gradkowski and second-year lineman Jah Reid are all hoping to crack the starting lineup. If one of them were to earn a starting job, then the average age along the line would drop significantly and the Ravens could change the perception that the group is too old.
But Birk isn't necessarily worried about the Ravens shedding their identity as a veteran offensive line, and he says that overcoming criticism is something he's learned to deal with throughout his career.
"During the course of your career, you are always going to have naysayers, and that's fine, that's a source of motivation," he said. "But, I think your main source comes from within and trying to prove to yourself that you can do it every single day.
"You come to work every day and punch in and put in a good day's work. That's what you have to do to be a successful lineman in this league for a long time."