In fact, Birk missed the entire 2005 season when he didn't fully recover from multiple sports hernia and hip operations and finally decided to go under the knife one more time in an attempt to fully heal for the 2006 season.
Which brought him to his big day Tuesday.
"Physically, I felt great. I really wasn't even thinking about my body or anything. I was just trying to get back into the swing of things. I've got a lot of rust to work off," Birk said after the Tuesday morning workout.
"There was a lot of anxiety. It's been about 18 months since live contact. I've been looking forward to this day to see what would happen and so far everything is good. I had anxiety because you just never know. I was just anxious to see if it would hold up or not. Either way, I just wanted to know."
After making the Pro Bowl four times in five years, Birk missed all of last season and four games the previous year while coping with the lingering injuries to his mid-section. Now, he says he feels the best he has in a couple years, which perhaps not so coincidentally is about the timeframe when the Vikings last had a reliable – or at least stable – offensive line.
Fast forward to the Brad Childress era, when the Vikings are committed to building up front and willing to spend $49 million over seven years on a left guard and make a draft-day trade for a right guard. Of course, that left guard isn't just any guard, it's Steve Hutchinson, widely considered the best left guard in the NFL today.
"He's fantastic," Birk said of Hutchinson. "Even before he signed, if you would have asked me who the best guard in football is, I would have said him. He's a blue-collar guy. He comes to work to work. He doesn't have any kind of attitude or ego. He wants to make the line better and make sure we're all on the same page."
Hutchinson is the key figure in a revamped offense line that is expected to feature, from left to right, Bryant McKinnie, Hutchinson, Birk, Artis Hicks and Marcus Johnson.
"Probably in five or six years, individually this is probably the most talent we've had across the board, but offensive line play is measured how you play as a unit," Birk said. "Talent levels as individuals doesn't guarantee anything.
"It all depends on how the five of us come together. You can have five talented guys, but that doesn't mean you're going to be a good offensive line. We feel like we have some players and can be pretty good. But because there are so many new parts, it's a long road ahead of us."
For now, Birk is back conducting the offensive line's journey on that long road. He is considered a savvy, well-rounded veteran that can win battles of strength. But his greatest asset might be his ability to diagnose a defense and make the right call for the offensive line.
However, with a new offensive system to learn, getting Birk back on his mental game will also take time.
"It's coming. Training camp is great because every day you get to immerse yourself in football for 14 hours a day, and that's the best way to learn something," Birk said. "It's not coming as naturally as it needs to, but technically this is only Day Two."
And Birk knows he has a long way to go to prove to people that he is back and able to survive the rigors of a full season, yet he remains optimistic.
"Physically, if I feel like I did (Tuesday), it's not going to be an issue," he said.