Birk believes taking care of older players right thing to do

January 31, 2013 | WNST Staff


(on what has impressed him most in the playoffs about QB Joe Flacco) “I don’t think it’s just this postseason. He’s done it all year. He does it all the time. He just goes to work and does his job. He’s certainly played well. I think Joe always plays well. There have been some games this post season – because of situations we’ve been in or the way defenses have played us – where they’ve kind of said that Joe’s not going to be the one that beats us, so they focus on Ray Rice and try to take away the running game. Those games have kind of been in Joe’s hands and he’s stepped up and gotten the job done. I’m impressed by it, but I’m not surprised by it.”


(on being satisfied with the medical care he’s provided as a player) “I’ve always felt like I’ve gotten great care from the teams I’ve been on. Obviously it’s a tricky situation. As players, we expect to be safe and we want to be safe but at the same time we play a very physical game. I think that we can always make strides and always continue to improve the type of care that we’re giving our players while they’re playing and after they’re playing. We can’t expect them to take care of everything. I guess I’m saying that unfortunately it’s part of the game. Guys suffer. I’m not saying we should try to solve it, but we should try to take care of them the best we can. Doctors aren’t perfect. The medical system isn’t perfect. So I would say that I’m satisfied. I think that we do get great care and obviously they invest a lot of money in players to try to keep us well and keep us productive and on the field. Some of that responsibility has to fall on the player.”


(on adjustments the offensive line has made this postseason) “Bryant McKinnie had to move to starting left tackle. Jah Reid went down. He was our starting left guard, so Bryant moved into left tackle. Michael Oher goes from starting left tackle to right tackle. Kelechi Osemele moved from right tackle to left guard. So there are three new pieces in there and it’s worked out well. The guys have had to move have had the biggest adjustments and they just did it. That’s what was best for the team. We figured that gave us the best chance to win and have those five guys out there. We would just try to make the most of it.”


(on being outspoken about player safety and defense) “There’s just a sense of what’s right. I’ve always felt very fortunate to be able to play this game, and obviously to make a very good living doing it. That hasn’t always been the case for players. I came into the league in 1998 and played with guys who were in the league in the 1980s. Financially speaking, they were quick to tell me it always hasn’t been like this. In 1994, things started getting pretty good for the players. They’ve continued to be good. They reminded me that it hasn’t always been like this. This has been a long, hard fight. It started way before I got here. So I think there is a sense with those guys that because of their actions and their sacrifices, they’ve allowed us to do this and be able to provide for our families in such a manner that we owe it to them that we try to take care of them as much as we can and give back a little bit. Because medical care, all of those things, it wasn’t the same 30 or 40 years ago but the players today are the ones benefiting from it.”


(on plans to donate his brain when he died) “You get used to (the conversation). Like I said, I compare it to being an organ donor. To me it’s not that big a deal. Terrible pun – it’s a no-brainer (joking). It really is, because once you’re gone, you’re gone, and if some or your organs or body parts can help somebody else or help further the understanding of the effects of football then I’m all for it.”


(on worrying about the effects of football in his life) “Sometimes you worry about it, especially if something happens like you can’t find your car keys. You think, ‘Oh my gosh.’ You overreact a little bit. You think, ‘Is this from football, is that why I can’t remember why I came into this room?’ It’s not, especially if you’re a parent. You have mush brain. Do I worry about it? I don’t worry about it but I surely try to do everything I can to keep myself healthy and if I can try to prevent something that happens down the road, I’m going to take those precautions.”


(on his current level of play and deciding whether or not to retire) “I will think about my decision after this game. I’m playing until I’m not. There’s a lot that factors into that. It’s not just football. It’s family. I just really like playing with this group and this team, with the group of guys playing the offensive line, playing for Coach (Andy) Moeller and Coach (John) Harbaugh and all of those guys. I think that’s why I’m so inspired and motivated every day to keep working hard to keep trying to get better.”


(on taking his time to think about retiring) “I don’t think that anything would happen Sunday that would make me decide right then and there or sway my decision either way.”


(on Joe Flacco in the playoffs) “It’s Joe. He’s always had great focus. He doesn’t get caught up in all the things that come along with being an  NFL quarterback. He’s always focused on the task and I think he just loves football, loves preparing, and loves going out there and competing. The catch that he gets, the contract and all that stuff, I don’t think it’s really that important to him. It is but it isn’t. At the end of the day I think his main focus and his task is to just play in the game and to play as well as he can.”


(on the Joe Flacco saying the offensive line has been a key in the post season) “That’s just of Joe to say, but we just try to do our job and give Joe and Ray (Rice) and Dennis (Pitta) and Anquan (Boldin) and Torrey (Smith) and Bernard (Pollard), all our guys, all our playmakers, chances to make plays. That’s our job, to do our job so that those guys can do the special things that they can do.”


(on his previously expressed opinion opposing gay marriage and how that differs from his openness to having a gay teammate) “I guess I could say this as many times as I want and people aren’t going to believe you, but that’s not a hateful attitude towards people who are gay. I have gay people in my life – gay people in my life that I love. If you’re asking me if I would accept a gay teammate: yeah absolutely. It would be really not that big of an issue to me personally.”


(on why no NFL player has publicly come out as gay) “It’s probably because of fear and how they’re going to be accepted or not accepted in the locker room. I think most NFL players feel very fortunate to be able to do this for a living, so maybe if a gay player comes out, they might think it might hurt their career or their chances. Unfortunately, I think it’s just based on fear of the unknown and how people are going to react.”


(on whether or not he and Brendon Ayanbadejo (who has advocated for gay marriage) have had debates on the issue) “Yeah, we’ve had some discussions. Obviously on the issue of marriage we couldn’t be further apart, but he’s my teammate and I respect him. I’ve known him since before he was my teammate and continue to respect him. I just think he’s wrong and I’ll just kind of leave it at that.”


(on where the Ravens are in terms of preparation for the game) “I think we’re right where we normally are for games, come this time of the week. You try to keep things as normal as possible and just try to prepare like we always do as players and as a team. We’re kind of creatures of habit. We have comfort in our routine and that takes some of the guesswork out of things, so we’re just trying to keep things as normal as possible and I think we’re right where we’re supposed to be.”


(on practice translating to game play) “You can’t practice hard and well and not get better and that’s our motto. That’s how Coach Harbaugh runs it – Coach John Harbaugh (laughs). We came ready to work and are going to work, because we’re here so we might as well work and make it a great day. In anything, whether football or life, hard work is the key to success.”


(on distractions in the media this week) “During the course of the season, it’s so long that stuff happens whether it’s public or in your private life. Stuff happens. Part of being a professional player is being able to block that stuff out and compartmentalize things and stay focused on the task at hand. That’s what it takes to be a professional athlete. Some guys can’t handle that. They don’t last long. I don’t think teams that can’t handle issues that come up are going to be successful, because things happen. Life happens. I’m not really concerned about the distractions or issues that the 49ers have had. There’s stuff out there about lots of different things on this team. That’s fine. We’re not going to let it impact our preparation and our performance on Sunday. That’s just the mindset that we have.”


(on practicing on a baseball field with crosswinds in New Orleans) “It’s just part of the deal. It’s the way it is. You can’t do anything to change it. Like I said, we were out there and said, ‘Hey, let’s just go to work and work hard and not worry about what we don’t have but focus on the opportunity that we do have to have a great Wednesday practice.’ I think we did that.”