Birk gets more brainiac bragging rights

The Sporting News came out with a list of the smartest athletes in sports and former Vikings center Matt Birk was among them. You can almost picture him holding court with reporters in Baltimore now.

There's something to be said about being smart. It was clear Matt Birk had more than his share of intelligence when he was with the Vikings. He was consistently surrounded by reporters looking for a quote because, whether serious, humorous or self-deprecating, Birk was always a media favorite. He was an Ivy Leaguer from hallowed halls of Harvard – and wasn't shy about reminding scribes with degrees from lesser colleges about that fact.

In the latest issue of The Sporting News, the magazine rated the 20 smartest athletes. Craig Breslow, a pitcher for the Oakland A's, topped the list, followed by Tennessee Titans safety Myron Rolle – the first NFL player on the list. He graduated from Florida State in two-and-a-half years (fill in your own joke here). Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (also from Harvard) checked in No. 5, one spot above Birk, which likely gets Fitzpatrick spanking privileges over Birk, who finished sixth.

To the surprise of none, when asked who his smartest teammate was, Birk picked Robert Smith – another intellectual never short of fear to defend and/or prove his brain power. However, perhaps somewhat surprising is that Birk included teammate and current radio color commentator Pete Bercich as on the same par as Smith – high praise indeed.

It still seems strange seeing Birk wearing the purple of the Ravens, but he is a player that is missed by the fans and media alike. He deserves his place on the list, although I'm sure he's questioning how he could have been put behind a hockey player (George Parros of the Anaheim Ducks at No. 4).

For the record, the other NFL players on the list were Alex Smith (No. 11) and Peyton Manning (No. 14).

SATURDAY NOTES The final injury reports were released Friday. The Vikings list three players as questionable – CBs Chris Cook (knee) and Cedric Griffin (knee) and DT Jimmy Kennedy (knee). While both Cook and Griffin have expressed the anticipation of their returns to action, one has to wonder if any of the three will see the field given the close proximity to the bye week.

  • Six other Vikings (all starters) were listed as probable – Brett Favre (right elbow/ankle), Bernard Berrian (knee), Percy Harvin (hip), OT Bryant McKinnie (finger), John Sullivan (calf) and Ben Leber (back).

  • Former Viking Nate Burleson (ankle) and LB Zack Follett (concussion) have been ruled out for Sunday's game. Four other Detroit starters – guard Stephen Peterman (foot), DE Cliff Avril (knee) and LBs DeAndre Levy (groin) and Landon Johnson (neck) – are listed as questionable for Sunday.

  • Need a reason to bet on Sunday's game? Favre has never lost a home game to the Lions in his 20-year career. Those are solid odds.

  • Favre got a vote of confidence from Ron Jaworski this week. Jaworski, who works the Monday Night Football games for ESPN, spends his week at the offices of NFL Films watching game film. He told the Pioneer Press there is no perceptible difference in Favre from 2009 to this year. He said his only problem is the offensive line, which needs to solidify for Favre to replicate the kind of season he had in 2009.

  • Favre is scheduled to get his final ankle lubricant injection after the Vikings game Sunday. He got a similar injection immediately following the Saints game when the Vikings were going to have 10 days between games.

  • It's hard to feel sorry for an NFL team, but you have to feel for the Cleveland Browns. We're just two weeks into the season and the Browns have 20 players on their Friday injury report, including five that are questionable, three being doubtful and one being ruled out. As if it isn't bad enough that almost 40 percent of the 53-man roster is banged up, the Browns have already placed six players on season-ending injured reserve.

  • The Vikings continue to be prohibitive favorites over Detroit. The Las Vegas oddsmakers have the Vikes as a favorite of anywhere from 11 to 13 points. The only team that is a bigger favorite on Sunday is New England, which is a 14- to 15½-point favorite over Buffalo.

    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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