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Ravens' Birk happy not to be center of attention

Ravens' Birk happy not to be center of attention

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Matt Birk was done a year ago, ready to retire.

Or so it seemed. Former NFL general manager Charley Casserly told a vast television audience before Baltimore's first playoff game that Birk would step into retirement after the Ravens completed their postseason run.

``That report didn't come from me,'' Birk said recently with a smirk.

Obviously not. The veteran center decided last offseason to return for at least one more year, and now he's poised to play in his first Super Bowl on Sunday.

And then, after his caps his 15th NFL season by banging helmets against the defensive line of the San Francisco 49ers, Birk will determine once again whether to take his scarred and weary body into retirement.

``I mean, I always say that I'm playing until I'm not,'' the 36-year-old Harvard grad said in the days leading up to the Super Bowl. ``Every year is just exhausting, and after the way our season ended last year (a loss in the AFC title game), it takes a while to process those emotions.

``For me, before my physical well-being, if I feel like I can do it again or if I want to do it, I need to make sure that it's good for my family. It's a big sacrifice on their part, on my wife, and I have six kids. You have to coordinate a lot of things and you have to make sure everybody is on board.''

A year ago, Birk and his family reached an agreement: He would give it go. So, after surgery to repair varicose veins in his leg, the six-time Pro Bowler showed up to training camp to mount one more charge to play in his first Super Bowl.

Birk started all 16 games and was part of an offense that scored a franchise-record 398 points.

``He's 100 percent pro,'' Ravens guard Marshal Yanda said. ``He always takes care of his body. He's had the kind of career we are all chasing. He was healthier this year and he played really well. I know I was always straining to get a higher grade than he did each week. He played last year's championship game while he was hurting.''

Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis determined a couple of months ago that this would be his last season and announced Jan. 2 that he will retire after the playoffs. Lewis has received much attention and accolades these past few weeks as he reaches the end of his career.

``It's fitting. He's a legend. He's one of a kind,'' Birk said. ``The way that he did it kind of gives the fans and everybody the chance to kind of go through the experience with him.''

Birk, on the other hand, plays a position that receives very little fanfare, and he's not asking for any in what could be his final season. Besides, he insists he hasn't decided definitively on his future - in part because he wouldn't know what to do if he couldn't strap on the shoulder pads and buckle up the chin strap.

``People say, `What are you going to do when you're done?' and that's probably why I'm still playing,'' he said. ``The unknown is scary in some ways. You're never going to be able to replicate some of the feelings, some of the emotions that you get playing this game. But ... if this is as good as it gets for you, then you're in trouble. You need to realize all of this is going to be gone someday. It ends for everybody.''

Birk will be 37 when the Ravens open training camp. There's a good chance some TV guy will insist during the Super Bowl that Birk won't be back, but the reality is that he's in no rush to decide.

``Whatever's going to happen is going to happen,'' Birk said. ``(My wife is) a planner. She likes everything planned out. She asks me all the time, `Is this it?' I say, `I don't know.' It makes her mad. She wants to know. She's like everybody else.''

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Steelers ink Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell on same day

Steelers ink Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell on same day

Antonio Brown will remain a Pittsburgh Steeler for a long time. On Monday, the team announced that Antonio Brown signed a contract extension for four years that is worth $68 million. 

The deal makes Brown the highest paid NFL wide receiver and will keep him on the Steelers roster until 2021.

It also included a signing bonus of $19 million according to ESPN. The new deal does not effect the 28-year-old's salary for the 2017 season which is scheduled to be $4.7 million.

In 2014, Brown lead the league with 1,698 yards and receptions with 129. Surpassing both marks in 2015 with 1,834 yards in 136 receptions, the seven-year veteran quickly became regarded as the best wide receiver in the league. He is also a five time Pro Bowl and was named an All-Pro three times, including last season.

Teammate Le'Veon Bell will stay with the team at least for one more season. Earlier on Monday, the Steelers placed the franchise tag on Bell which is expected to earn him over $12 million based on last season's numbers.

At 25-years-old, Bell has had a career tattered with injuries since he came into the league in 2013. As a dual-threat player from the backfield and as a receiver, he has averaged over 1,500 yards from scrimmage each year.

Bell is coming off a Pro-Bowl season with 1,884 scrimmage yards and nine touchdowns in only 12 games. 

RELATED: Adidas to give away an island if prospect breaks record at NFL Combine

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Adidas promises a private island to NFL prospects with one catch

Adidas promises a private island to NFL prospects with one catch

Don’t be alarmed if you see numerous NFL prospects running around the field with cheetah print adidas cleats. No its not for charity or a charitable cause, but rather a chance for the athlete to make some waves before even joining an NFL squad.

Those NFL prospects are vying for a private island.

That’s right. With one tweet, adidas announced the ultimate incentive for any athlete willing to wear their special edition adizero 5-star 40 cleats during the 40-yard dash event at the 2017 NFL Combine.

But, there's one other requirement that makes this private island a distant dream. The prospect must beat Chris Johnson’s 2015 record of 4.24 seconds.

The cleats are designed specifically for this popular event, weighing in at a whopping 4.8 ounces and now can provide soaking up the sun and catching the waves to one lucky prospect.


Adidas will be the kings of the jungle with this fun marketing tactic while one prospect could be crowned the king of the 40-yard dash.