Matt Birk is back for his 15th season to help the Ravens, once again, try and reach the Super Bowl. Birk will also take on the familiar role as mentor to the young linemen on the Ravens roster looking to make a career in the NFL.
"It’s never been a passion thing," Birk said of his decision to return. "I wanted to feel physically well enough to play. It’s not fair to the team, it’s not fair to anybody to come back if you don’t physically feel you can do it or aren’t mentally bought in. I think you have to physically feel good to mentally be able to do it."
Last season the offensive line struggled when left guard Ben Grubbs went down with an injury and this season the team will be with out his services again as he signed with the New Orleans Saints in free agency. Birk will be tutoring Grubbs' replacement and possibly his own in 2012.
Before the draft the left guard position seemed to be second year tackle Jah Reid's to lose. Now the Ravens have drafted two young players, in early rounds, capable of taking over the open position on the Ravens' line.
At the moment the favorite would seem to be Rookie Tackle Kelechi Osemele, the Ravens second round pick. Birk will sandwich the newcomer with left tackle Bryant McKinnie, another long time NFL veteran, giving many years of knowledge and experience to learn from.
"It’s nice just getting around the guys, getting a feel for them and developing personal relationships. I guess it’s a chemistry building process," Birk said.
"They’re guys who have size, strength and explosion. They’ve got all those things. From what I’ve seen, what I understand, they’re hard-working, right-way guys and that’s what you have to be to play offensive line in this league."
Birk will also be the tutor who will hopefully be the Ravens center of the future in Gino Gradkowski. Gradkoski could also be in the running for the open guard position but did play center at Delaware. Gino's brother Bruce is a veteran NFL quarterback so he has other areas from with to draw knowledge as well but guys like Matt Birk will be key to his development and the Ravens should be very happy to have him back this season to teach the young guys.
Having guys like Birk around to teach and mentor the young players is what keeps a team like the Ravens from having to rebuild. Instead they just reload along the way...