CENTER MATT BIRK
(on if he thought it would take 15 years) “I didn’t think I was going to be here 15 years later in 1998.”
(on he and Randy Moss starting together that year at opposite ends of the publicity spectrum) “I was fortunate enough to play with Randy for seven years and the way he took the league by storm was unbelievable. To be a part of that and to be his teammate for seven years, we had a lot of fun in the locker room and obviously won a lot of games in large part to him. I haven’t kept in touch with him or anything like that, but obviously I’m happy for him and that he’s still playing. I think Randy’s been through a lot, gone through a lot of different things, but I understand having been his teammate for seven years what a competitor he is and how hard he works.”
(on the time and effort he’s put in and what it means to get here with the guys in his locker room) “Just being here with these guys, this is a special group. That was obvious when I got to Baltimore. Being here for four years, it’s just a tight-knit group and we really are a team and that come from Coach Harbaugh. If you’re not about the team you’re not going to play for the Ravens. Obviously we have great players, Hall of Fame players, guys that their impact isn’t measured only on the field, but off the field as well. It’s just a blessing to able to play with those guys.”
(on any misconceptions about Randy Moss in a general sense) “I would just say he was a great teammate, extremely hardworking. I mean the things he did on the football field were fantastic. Those are the guys you want to play with, those types of competitors.
(on if this is a dream matchup) “These are two very physical teams, alike in a lot of ways and the physical aspect of football. That element is never going to change and big games you have to be physical. The two teams here are physical. It’s our 20th game of the season, we’re not going to change what we do and they’re not going to change what they do. It’s going to be pretty straight forward. I think the way the game evolves and changes and so much in passing and spreading out the field and doing things. I like the fact that just as a fan it comes down to these two teams and this style of play to decide the world champion.”
(on Joe Flacco’s development) “He’s just continued to get better. It’s been five years evolving and every year he’s gotten better and other guys have developed along with him that are young players. Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, Dennis Bennett, guys like that. Joe’s gotten better, but I think a lot of guys around him have gotten better as well. It’s kind of a two way street.”
(on Joe Flacco being a leader in the locker room) “I think just Joe being Joe. He is who he is and he’s very comfortable with that. The person he is and his personality. He doesn’t try to be somebody he’s not. The quarterback position is a leadership position and hopefully you have to play well and Joe’s done it time and time again. He’s proven that he’s an excellent quarterback on big stages and he plays well and you do the best you can to respect your teammates.
(on the special feeling you need to have in the playoffs to win and coming back sense the middle of the season) “I think we have great leadership on this team. I think Coach Harbaugh is a great coach and a great leader. I think the guys in this room, their performance and their careers speak for themselves, but they’re not guys that a just in it for themselves. They’re team guys, they lead and the rest follow. Everybody’s going to have bumps in the road. You’re going to have downs in the middle of the season and we understand that and you try your best to avoid them, but it’s going to happen. I think when we had ours nobody panicked because players still believed in players and in coaches and coaches believed in players and we still believed in the way we were doing things. We know that you get rough patches during the season it’s a long season, but we just have to do things the way we’ve been doing. Our philosophy is just come to work ready to work and try to work as hard as you can and to get as good as you can and that’s basically all we do.”
(on the length of time he’s been in the league and what it feels like being here) “I feel very fortunate to be playing this game and to be doing it with this group of guys. It’s a special group of guys all the way around and nobody’s entitled and nobody deserves to play in the Super Bowl, but everything really came together for us.”
(on President Obama saying that if he had a son he would have to think long and hard before letting him play football because of the physical toll it takes) “I have three sons and I think anyone who is a parent can relate to that. Certainly it is a dangerous game and we’re finding out more and more, every day, the long term effects that this game can have. I think it’s a joint effort with the commissioner, with coaches, with players, with everybody, everybody that wants to watch and make this game as safe as it can be. I think we’re making strides in that. Football’s a great game. Obviously it’s a great game for NFL players, it’s how we make a living, but most kids who play football aren’t going to make it to the NFL. It’s such a great game because it teaches you about life and lessons and there’s so much to be gained by participating in football. It’s served us all well and just to continue to have this conversation and continue to talk about it and just do whatever we can to make it safer whether it be through rule change or research.”
(on how important Coach Jim Caldwell has been to this team) “Obviously he’s done a great job. It’s probably less than an ideal situation. I think his track record speaks for itself and what he’s accomplished in this league. I think he helped Joe (Flacco) progress, get a different coach, different voice and a different viewpoint and this offense as a whole, he’s obviously brought a lot of ideas and when he became coordinator he was able to put his stamp on it, his personality a little bit more. Fortunately he’s been successful.”
(on the dynamic of the changes in the offensive line) “We always talk about chemistry on the offensive line, five guys because you work together so much and ideally you’d love to have five guys in there at the same position all season. That’s not the way it worked out for us, but you get back to the team philosophy that we have and everybody buying in and what was best for the team. Guys like Michael (Oher) and Michael’s been back and forth many times throughout his career and he just does it. He doesn’t complain. He just does it because he knows that’s what’s best for the team. Brian (Williams) did a great job of just staying ready all season to jump in and Kelechi (Osemele) as a rookie you lean so much and you’re learning curve is so steep and he’s playing left tackle for 16 games and then all of a sudden get switched to guard. Those guys, they just want to win. They’re about the team and whatever it took when we had to make those changes because of injury and everybody just went all in and did the best they could.”
(on Bryant McKinnie and Aldon Smith matching up) “It’ll be a great matchup. Bryant’s been a great player in this league for a long time. Left tackle position, you’ve got to be able to block guys one-on-one in the pass and obviously with Smith, the year that he’s had and to do what he’s be able to do is phenomenal. That’ll be two great players going at it.”
(on Alex Smith going out with a concussion and if that hurts the advancement of the safety issue) “I don’t know that situation particularly, but I think the culture has changed for the better in the last few years as far as concussions are concerned. I think the attitude is that it’s not smart to play with a concussion. You’re not doing your team any favors by trying to play through a concussion because you can.”
(on if he had the information now based on the research they’re showing, would that have affected his decision as far as playing) “I don’t know. It’s hard to say. I have three sons and once they get to a certain age and want to play football, I’ll let them.”