Sep 16, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) under center Matt Birk (77) during the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles defeated the Ravens 24-23. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE
Everyone talks about how long Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis has played in the NFL. Seventeen years and counting for one o fthe best in his position and overall in league history. Ravens center Matt Birk is in his 15th year, also incredibly impressive for a position that knocks heads on virtually every play, not to mention the strain of bending and squatting down before every snap.
However, while Lewis is still mentioned as one of the top linebackers in the game, Birk's status is continually questioned despite there being no argument about his intelligence and ability to mentor his eventual successor. The team drafted center Gino Gradkowski in the 4th round of April's NFL Draft and expect Birk to groom him to one day take over the task of snapping the ball to his fellow Delaware alum.
In the meantime, Birk's declining skills remain a topic of conversation and were clearly evident in yesterday's 24-23 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
All too often, the Philly defense penetrated the middle of the Ravens offensive line, pushing Birk either to the ground or shoving backwards toward his quarterback. Understanding that Eagles defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins is a big load, Birk still could not keep him out of the Ravens backfield or Flacco's face.
In the AFC Championship Game loss to the New England Patriots last January, Birk was over-matched when up against DT Vince Wilfork all game long. Ironically, Birk will have a re-match with Wilfork next Sunday when the Ravens host the Patriots on Sunday Night Football.
Hopefully, Birk will stay strong for the rest of the season orthe team may have to go with the rookie a lot sooner than planned, since the original idea was for Gradkowski to learn on the sidelines while watching the veteran lead by example.
Unfortunately, the example is not going well and both teacher and student, as well as the "principal" knows this is not the way to show how to get the job done.