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Matt Birk’s agent says he’s not retiring.
But it’s not a guarantee that the unrestricted free agent will be back in Baltimore. Even if he is, it doesn’t mean the Ravens won’t look to add a center in the draft.
Enter Wisconsin’s Peter Konz, who is probably the most Birk-like center in this year’s draft class.
Konz showed a similar down-to-earth, likeable personality with the media at the NFL Scouting Combine. He’s also got comparable size (6-foot-5, 314 pounds) and smarts.
“I’d be happy to play with Baltimore,” Konz said. “I’d be happy to play anywhere. Plug me in and I’m happy.”
During a game last year, a defensive tackle came up under Konz’s grill. Konz stared down at the Oregon Duck, who was a several inches shorter, and suddenly realized how ridiculous it looked. Konz broke form, smiled and said, “Hi.”
Retelling the story to the media, Konz let out one of many loud belly laughs.
Asked why it’s so important to carry on the tradition of NFL Wisconsin linemen and whether he can continue the trend of first-round centers, he said, “You don’t want anyone to forget you,” inciting laughter from journalists.
“I think I’d have some personal issues if I thought it would be horrible to go in the second round.”
And what separates him from the other centers?
“I’m able to talk to the media,” the radio/television/film major said. “I love attention.”
While his personality is a selling point, there are other important factors that make Konz appealing to teams in the first round.
He was originally slated to be a tackle at Wisconsin, but shifted inside to center as a freshman after injuries riddled the Badgers’ offensive line early in his career. Konz never moved back.
He first started getting noticed because he was running out on the edges blocking cornerbacks and safeties, something not too often seen from a center of his size.
While the Badgers are known for their straight-ahead, power running, Konz looks to have the athleticism to fit into Baltimore’s zone-stretch scheme.
“I love it. It’s awesome,” Konz said of playing center. “I love the ability to make the calls, to make the adjustments, to be that center guy and communicate with everybody and get things going on the right track.”
If the Ravens were to bring Birk back in free agency and lose Ben Grubbs, Baltimore could have the option of moving Konz to guard. Konz has never played there during his career, but doesn’t envision it being a problem.
“That’s what I love is the challenge,” he said. “Throw me anywhere. I’ll be happy just because I’m playing anywhere.”
Perhaps the biggest question mark with Konz is his health, for which he underwent additional testing at the combine. He dislocated his ankle and missed three games at the end of his senior season, but returned for Wisconsin’s bowl game.
“[That] shows a lot of toughness,” Ravens Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz said. “He just gutted it out and wanted to play.”