Retiring Offensive Lineman Matt Birk: “I’ve Got a Lot to Live For Outside of Football”

February 25, 2013 – 7:20 am by Brad Gagnon

When we last checked in on 15-year veteran and new Super Bowl champion Matt Birk, the center was debating retirement but wouldn’t commit before taking some time to ponder things. Now, a couple weeks after the biggest moment of his career, Birk has indeed decided to hang it up and move on with his life.

Matt Birk joined Dan Barreiro on KFAN in Minneapolis to discuss his decision to retire, his time as an NFL player and to explain the timing of said decision. He spoke about how much he anticipates he’ll miss the game and touched on his departure from Minnesota four years ago.

On his career panning out extremely well:

“If you ever hear me complain, I give you permission to slap me across the face. Are you kidding me? A guy like me? Fifteen years. All that stuff. … God’s been good to me.”

On his 15 years in the NFL:

“These last couple weeks I’ve just looked back and reflected and I’m full of so much gratitude, and really just humility, because getting drafted by the Vikings, that’s awesome because that’s the team I grew up watching. I have an emotional connection to that team. And then with the situation with the way that team was, they had four Pro Bowl offensive linemen. There was time for me to develop, to learn. Very few guys are ready for the NFL. If you get thrown in there early in your career, you get exposed and then you’re done. That didn’t happen to me. I got time to develop; I got to learn from the best. I got to play with great, great players — Hall of Fame players.”

On why he decided to retire now:

“What more? How could it end any better? … The enticing thing for me to come back is that it’s really, really hard to win a Super Bowl — I know that first-hand — but it’s even harder to win back-to-back. And I thought that would be the battle cry, that would be the theme this coming year — let’s see if we can do it again. But in the end, it’s like, ‘Hey, let’s not push our luck.’ For me, I’m very healthy, I’ve got a lot to live for outside of football.”

On transitioning into retirement:

“It’ll be hard, there’s no question. There’s still a desire there because it’s final. When you’re done, you’re done. You can’t go play a game of pickup football with shoulder pads and a helmet on. It’ll be hard, but I’m glad it’ll be hard. I already miss it, and I’m glad because that means it was something that was really special. Some guys leave the game a little bitter and the game kind of beats them, the game kind of chews that up a little bit. I’m not like that. I didn’t think I’d last one year, so when I do miss it and I start to feel that itch, I just remind myself how fortunate I was throughout my career to play a long time and win a Super Bowl.”

On leaving the Vikings right before the team made a playoff run with Brett Favre:

“My first year here, we lose to the Vikings. You guys signed a quarterback named Brett Favre — I don’t know if you remember him — he had a decent year. I’m sitting here, all my friends are calling me saying, ‘Where’d you go again? Who you playing for?’ They’re getting ready to go to the Super Bowl with the Vikings, I’m thinking, ‘Boy, talk about your all-time backfires.’ But you just don’t know. You make decisions based on the information you have and do what’s best.”

On if he’s bitter over leaving the Vikings:

“Maybe a little bit, but I think I look for more positive reasons than that.”

On coming to the final decision to retire:

“Very gradual. You’re kind of going like, 75 percent of the time I’m thinking I’m done and 25 percent I’m thinking I can still play. And you just get closer to 100 percent. When you finally get to that point you’re like, ‘OK, let’s just get’r done and move on.”

Listen to Matt Birk on KFAN here (starts 32:46)

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