Birk's focus on football, not homecoming

Matt Birk spent a decade with the Vikings before moving to Baltimore via free agency in March. Now that he's returning to play against his hometown team, he's publicly focusing on football and not small sidelights surrounding his homecoming.

You can come home again, but that doesn't mean the hometown team has to welcome you back.

Former Vikings center Matt Birk is now the starting center with the Baltimore Ravens and preparing to play against the defensive linemen that he practiced against for years. The difference now is that it isn't practice, and defensive tackle Pat Williams and Kevin Williams will be putting in full effort against Birk.

In Birk's case, absence probably doesn't make the heart grow fonder.

"(Facing them is) probably scarier because I know exactly what we're getting into. They're great players. It starts with them, but that whole defense," Birk said. "When you're No. 1 against the run for three years, it's not a fluke. They're as good as there is up there and we'll have our work cut out for us."

The Vikings are no longer first against the run. They have dropped to 10th in the league in that statistic and Baltimore brings the fourth-ranked rushing offense to the Metrodome. After six Pro Bowl seasons, Birk is contributing to Baltimore's rushing success, just like he did with Adrian Peterson in Minnesota. In fact, Birk started at center for five of the six best single-season rushing performances in Vikings history.

Birk's return, however, is much more than just Xs and Os. While football has to be his main focus, he built a decade of relationships with the Vikings and the community during his years (1998-2008) with the team.

"When it's all said and done, maybe the next day, the next year, whatever, I'll kind of process and figure it out," he said when asked about his return to play his former team. "I'm going up there focused on the task at hand."

Birk said he is often asked if he regrets his decision to leave Minnesota now that Brett Favre joined the team.

"I don't regret it. I think I've gone at least ad nauseum to explain the decision that I did. I'm still happy with it. That's the way it is. I don't look back," he said, adding that he didn't stop to assess the team needs and think that the Vikings were a quarterback away from making a Super Bowl run.

"I thought we'd make a run every year. Everyone thinks because you're a player that you know inside info and this and that. Experts and predictions, it wasn't really about that," he added. "I guess what I'm saying is I didn't really try to assess the team. I knew it was a good football team in Minnesota. We were good last year, but like I said my decision was based on other things."

Asked if his decision to leave came down to money, he referenced earlier statements saying he decided he wanted to experience something different.

"I've said before, it wasn't a money thing. The offers were very similar," he said. "… I just felt like in my heart and in my gut, and talking it over with my wife, we wanted a change. We wanted a new challenge, a new experience, a new adventure. And that's why we're here in Maryland."

POINTING OUT THE FLAWS

On Monday, Childress said the last time he talked to Birk was at his charity football event.

"I mean, I hate to beat my chest. But, yeah, we kicked his (butt) in that flag football game," said Childress, who quarterbacked his team to a win over Birk's team.

Birk confirmed the Team Childress win, but said that the coach's performance waned in the later stages of the event.

"He was pretty solid early on. Especially when he played my team, he kind of smoked us, I was sorry to say," Birk said. "I do recall though I think in the last game, in the semifinals, I think he threw four picks. I don't know if he shared that with you or not. Actually, I tell you what: I was impressed. He could throw it a little bit better than I thought he could."


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