Birk goes out on top
Matt Birk has confirmed he is retiring from the NFL after ending his 15th season in the league with a Super Bowl victory with the Baltimore Ravens.
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The veteran centre never missed a game for the Ravens in four seasons in Baltimore, but at the age of 36 he has decided to go out on top and retire with a Super Bowl ring.
Birk was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the sixth round of the 1998 draft after attending Harvard, and he spent 11 seasons at the Metrodome before joining Baltimore.
A six-time Pro Bowler, Birk was recognised for his off-field achievements by winning the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2011.
Birk had said after Baltimore's thrilling victory at Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans that he was unlikely to retire, but after thinking it over he has decided now is the time.
After signing a new three-year deal only last year, Birk will lose the remaining value of his two years and save the Ravens a reported $2m on their salary cap.
Birk made the announcement while at Battle Grove Elementary School in Baltimore doing some work in the community, which he stated he loves every bit as much as playing in the NFL.
"Today I'm announcing my retirement from the NFL," Birk said at the school. "I've enjoyed playing football. But as much as playing football, I've enjoyed doing this."
Birk will be a big loss to the Ravens and coach John Harbaugh, who described him as playing the best football he's seen since his arrival in Baltimore.
"It was a privilege to coach him and an honor to have him as a friend," said Harbaugh. "We are better people for being around Matt."
Back-up centre Gino Gradkowski was drafted by the Ravens in the fourth round last year, but it remains to be seen if he can go straight into Birk's position or whether the team will look for a veteran in free agency.