Ravens C Birk announces retirement

Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk announced his retirement on Friday.

Birk revealed his decision while dedicating a community reading center at a Baltimore elementary school.

"Today I'm announcing my retirement from the NFL," Birk stated. "I've enjoyed playing football. But as much as playing football, I've enjoyed doing this (community service)."

Birk, recognized for his community work with the Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2011, played the past four seasons with the Ravens after spending 11 years with his hometown team, the Minnesota Vikings. The St. Paul native went out as a Super Bowl champion, helping Baltimore to a win over San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII earlier this month.

"To cap it with a Super Bowl win, that's a great thing," said Birk. But regardless of that, had that not happened, it would have still been a fantastic experience and one that I would have been very thankful and grateful for.

"I just want to say a big 'thank you' to everybody that made everything possible."

The six-time Pro Bowl selection had two years remaining on a three-year deal he signed last March. He had contemplated retirement last spring before coming back for one more year.

"We were all so fortunate to have Matt Birk as a Raven - the team, everyone in our building, the community. It was a privilege to coach him and an honor to have him as a friend," said Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. "We are better people for being around Matt, blessed in fact."

Birk started all 16 games for the Ravens in 2012 and hadn't missed a game since sitting out the 2005 season with Minnesota because of a sports hernia and hip injury. The 36-year-old Harvard product played in 210 regular-season games and started 187, while also appearing in 11 playoff games.

"There are reasons he played at such a high level for 15 years," said Harbaugh. "We will miss having him here every day, but we look forward to always calling him a friend and a Raven."