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Matt Birk has decided to return to football, according to his agent.
The Ravens center would be coming back for his 15th year in the NFL. He has spent the last three seasons as the Ravens starting center.
Birk, 35, is also an unrestricted free agent.
Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine, General Manager Ozzie Newsome said it would be up for discussion as to whether the Ravens would re-sign him if he didn’t retire.
“We want to have him back if he wants to come back,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said.
“We’ll see what he does. He got through the year healthy and we think he can still play. We need a center and he’s a great guy. He’s the Man of the Year. We want him back.”
The six-time Pro Bowler was a key part of an offensive line that cleared the way for one of the league’s top rushing attacks, as Ray Rice rushed for a career-high 1,364 yards last season.
Even with Birk’s decision to return, the Ravens could still draft a center or look to sign one in free agency.
General Manager Ozzie Newsome said last month, “Before we line up and play in 2012, there will be another center on this football team in some capacity – free agency, draft or whatever.”
The team’s backup center last year was veteran Andre Gurode, who is also an unrestricted free agent.
Birk has played with the Ravens and Vikings during his career and has started 96 consecutive games, the second-longest streak among active centers.
The Harvard graduate is also highly involved in the Baltimore community, as he was named the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year for his charitable work and success on the field. Birk’s “Ready, Set Read!” program promotes childhood literacy and has reached close to 100,000 children in the Baltimore area.