The guy went to Harvard. So listen up. Clearly his take on the NFL Lockout is going to be worth listening to. Actually though, to be honest Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk echoes the basic mindset of all his colleagues around the National Football League — he just wants to play. As you’ll hear though, Birk strongly believes that 2011 NFL season won’t be shortened due to a prolonged labor impasse. Maybe that’s wishful thinking though from Birk, a veritable family man with five kids scurrying around the house. He’s loved the flexibility the lockout has afforded him in terms of being able to live his life around their schedules for once. Simple pleasures like dropping the kids off at school are suddenly a regular occurrence rather than a rare treat. Birk will admit though that he’s getting a bit antsy. He craves time off from his football settings and teammates at the end of a long season, but it’s about this time each year when the six-time Pro Bowler starts to miss the guys and turns his mindset to the upcoming year after a much needed break. I’ll let the veteran elaborate further.
Birk joined 105.7 The Fan in Baltimore to talk about how he’s felt it was inevitable that the labor dispute would get to this point, how he believes the owners made up their mind long ago to lock out the players, why that’s not the end of the world necessarily in his mind, why he believes the broader economic impact of the lockout will safeguard against missed games next season, being eager to get back with his teammates at some point soon after, how he always craves time away from the team after a long season but then begins to miss the fellowship of the team after just a few months away, his thoughts on college football and all its blatantly obvious hypocritical impurities, and finally, to share an interesting personal anecdote about why it’s crazy to think there’s a rampant performance enhancing drug problem in the NFL.
What is his assessment of the current state of affairs with the unresolved lockout?:
“I think the point that we’re at now was inevitable. I just think that when the owners locked us out, they had been planning this for some time and they’re just going to go to the courts and let the courts decide it. Because I think both sides realized they were pretty far apart on where they should they should be. They spent a little time putting on a dog and pony show during mediation, but at the end of the day I think everybody expected to be here. We just have to let the process work itself out.”
His thoughts on statements like the one made recently by Fran Tarkenton that are some derivation of ‘forget the lawyers, lock yourself in a room and hammer out a deal like men’:
“That would be fine. When negotiations were taking place, players were in the room ready to go, ready to do something. But contrary to popular reports, there weren’t a whole lot of owners present. I don’t know if had they been there a deal would have gotten done, there are some principle differences there, and you can yell and scream at someone all day and they can yell and scream at you back, but you’re not going to see their side and they’re not going to see your side. And like I said, this has been in the works for some time this whole lockout — it’s been over two years now that owners were taking steps to do this. They felt like this is what they had to do and that’s okay. I get nauseated hearing everybody talk about it everyday and I know everyone else does, but I think at the end of the day, at the end of the summer, we’re going to be playing football and that’s really all that matters.”
If he’s concerned that players might cave once they really start feeling the pressure of not receiving game checks:
“That’s a long ways down the road. I don’t think it will get to that. When you look at the economic impact that football has on cities on gameday, I mean dependent on studies of which city you’re talking about, I’ve seen things from $150 to $250 million dollars just in that one day for one game. So there actually are powers higher than the NFL, and I don’t think they’ll allow the NFL to miss any games when it comes down to it.”
Whether he’d welcome government intervention if necessary:
“Just so long as we don’t miss any games because this is different than other labor situations in other sports. Nobody’s losing money; everybody’s making money. So there’s no reason to miss games. So I think if the government had to come in and put in a short term solution while we work something out, a long term agreement, that would be fine. But yeah, I just want to play football. I’m like every other player. This isn’t our deal. We’re not lawyers, we don’t enjoy talking about this stuff, we’d rather be talking about ball and what’s going on on the field and the draft and those types of things. We’re players, but we’re fans too. We love the game and we love to follow it, and obviously there’s not a whole lot to follow right now other than court procedures and motions being filed.”
On if Ravens players have scheduled any unofficial workouts or practice sessions for the near future:
“Yeah there’s some scuttlebutt getting together, but more so by position group just doing some things. It sounds kind of weird, but at the end of the season, you’ve seen every single person on the team every day for like six months, you’re so tired of seeing their faces and talking to them. But after a month or two, this is the time of year where we start getting back together, start working out again, you kind of miss the guys. I need some time out of the house is what I need. No, you just kind of miss the guys and getting together and just kind of shooting the breeze. That’s part of the fun of doing what we do is the locker room and the atmosphere and the fellowship. So hopefully if the weather can break here and we can get some decent weather, then there has been some talk of just getting together and doing some things. And I think it’s a good idea.”
Since he’s a fan of multiple sports, not just football, has he been following the Barry Bonds trial and does he have any opinions on the matter:
“Well there’s always going to be that segment of players that will try to get that edge illegally and stay one step ahead. But you know, people ask me — and I just gave you my opinion on college football*** –is there a drug problem in the NFL? I say absolutely not.
[Editor’s note: I did not transcribe Birk’s thoughts on college football, but in a nutshell, he referenced those opinions to suggest he’s not shy about being candid and honest. And when asked about college football, he said all the dirtiness we keep hearing about on campuses should not be the slightest bit surprising to us anymore.]
And if there is [a drug problem] — if guys are staying ahead of the curve — then they’re blowing away the stereotype of a dumb football player. Because the way we get tested and as often as we do…I mean, I’ve had guys in January come to my house in Minnesota and drug test me. They track you down, they find you, they get you to pee in the cup. I don’t think it’s a problem. But there’s obviously always going to be those guys, and that’s why you have to try to be as pro-active as you can with the testing because it’s in the majority of the players’ best interest and it keeps the playing field level.”