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ExtremeRavens: The Sanctuary

Ravens Insider: Ravens news, notes and opinions on the offensive line, running game and more


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There were questions about how the Ravens would replace Ray Lewis and Ed Reed , Dannell Ellerbe and Bernard Pollard , Anquan Boldin and later Dennis Pitta . But few people asked this offseason about how the Ravens would replace retiring center Matt Birk . Teammates and coaches loved Birk, valuing not just his steady play and toughness, but also his intelligence and leadership. A 14-year pro who played four seasons in Baltimore, Birk did so much more than take on the top interior defensive linemen in the game. It’s a shame, however, that it took the struggles of the Ravens’ current offensive line for some fans to appreciate him fully. The previous two years, I would get occasional emails from fans criticizing Birk, complaining that he was yielding too much penetration and not getting enough of a push in the run game. Now, I’m getting regular emails about whether the Ravens could talk the 37-year-old out of retirement. The Ravens certainly miss Birk every bit as much as, if not more than, the others mentioned above and that’s not just because first-year starting center Gino Gradkowski has struggled at times. I’ve said this before, but I think every current Ravens offensive lineman would tell you that they are not playing individually as well as they did last year. I’d have to think that has something to do with the fact that the anchor of last year’s group is now enjoying retirement and isn’t around to make line calls and make sure everybody is on the same page.


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