Best Of The NFL's Tough Centers

They don't garner much attention but are in the middle of the action on every play. The center position has become an increasingly important position, and we take a look at the best the league has to offer.

The center position is one that easily can be taken for granted. Centers are usually those down-and-dirty players that do whatever it takes in the middle of the line wars to help the team. While that has not changed, the center position has become increasingly critical to the success of a team. As the defensive linemen in the game have become bigger and stronger, the players at the center position are now depended upon for more than taking up space in the middle of the battle.

Matt Birk, Minnesota Vikings – Having never played the center position prior to the 2000 season, Birk has been a fixture in the middle of the Vikings offensive line since the 2000 season opener. Birk has been the starting center for the two highest single-season rushing totals in Vikings history — Robert Smith's 1,521 yards in 2000 and Michael Bennett's 1,296 in 2002. Having started 48 consecutive games, Birk has been a steady influence in the rebuilding of the Minnesota Vikings. Playing within himself and is fundamentally sound, Birk has shown the ability to not only handle the center position, but efficiently dominate the opposition. A two-time All-Pro, Birk is considered the best center in the game today by many in the game, and he anchors what may be the best offensive line in the NFL in Minnesota.

Olin Kreutz, Chicago Bears – Olin Kreutz was a hidden gem in Chicago with some average Bears teams. He was outstanding in the 2001 season for the 13-3 Bears, as he anchored an offensive line that surrendered a league-low 17 quarterback sacks, while opening holes for a rushing attack that average over 108 yards per game in what has been regarded as a passing offense. Injuries and inconsistency riddled the Chicago offensive line in the 2002 season and the team struggled, as did Kreutz. Despite the woes in Chicago, Kreutz is regarded as one of the top centers in the league and in many corners is thought of as being the best. Kreutz has shown the ability to consistently blow defensive tackles off the ball with his physical power and never-quit approach to the game. Olin Kreutz is as physical as they come in the NFL. Having a very good training camp, he appears to be back at the top of his game.

Jeremy Newberry; San Francisco 49ers – Newberry is quickly becoming one of the top centers in the league. Plays tough, physical football, a throwback type of player who leads an offensive line that opened up holes for the second-rated rushing attack in the league in 2002. Newberry has started every game that he has appeared in, and in the 2002 season Newberry played with a lingering ankle injury that would have shelved many a player. Throughout his five-year career, Newberry has started at offensive tackle, guard, and center, and has excelled at each position. A two-time Pro Bowl player, Newberry has thrived due to his dedication and preparation. Last year, Newberry was an instrumental member of a San Francisco offensive line that only permitted 17 sacks on starting quarterback Jeff Garcia.

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