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singersp
07-31-2006, 12:06 PM
Published July 31, 2006 12:46 am

Matt Birk had his hands full as he hauled a few belongings out of his truck and into to Gage Center, his living quarters for the next three weeks.

Birk bounces back
Center ready for training camp after missing last season with injury

By Shane Frederick
The Free Press

MANKATO —
Matt Birk had his hands full as he hauled a few belongings out of his truck and into to Gage Center, his living quarters for the next three weeks.


The few fans who braved Sunday’s heat and humidity called out to the Vikings center for autographs, and Birk politely said he’d get to them in a few minutes, after he was done checking in.

One fan wanted to make sure Birk knew he wouldn’t be just another player in her autograph book.

“Glad to have you back, Matt,” she called out to him.

She isn’t alone. The Vikings are glad, too.

Birk is back after missing all of last season following hip surgery. He was placed on injured reserve following last year’s training camp.

A sports hernia has also plagued him, and the four-time Pro Bowl selection has actually spent more time watching camp from the sidelines than he has practicing the last two seasons.

Finally feeling healthy, the ninth-year player arrived, along with the other veterans Sunday, ready to get back on the Minnesota State University practice fields.

“It’s just kind of the last step for me,” he said, “as far as coming back from injury and proving to everyone, but most importantly proving to myself, that I’m healthy and that I’m ready to go.”

It won’t take long to find that out.

The only test remaining, he said, is “just putting the pads on and maybe getting run over a few times.”

However, coach Brad Childress said, even without the pads, he has already seen good things from Birk, having watched him take on the likes of Pat Williams and other defensive linemen during mini camps and volunteer workout sessions.

“People talk about having to load him up in pads,” Childress said. “But those minicamps were tough.”

Birk’s return, along with the offseason acquisition of Pro Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson, is expected to turn the Vikings’ offensive line from a team weakness to a strength. If that’s the case, Childress said, Birk’s job is to direct the unit.

“The center is the quarterback of the offensive line,” fourth-year lineman Adam Goldberg said. “To have a center of Matt’s caliber, both physically and mentally, will be a big help to us.”

Hutchinson, who played in the Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks last season, said he’s eager to see his new team’s line in pads this week.

“We have guys that have been around that are good players,” Hutchinson said. “If we can gel together and be on the same page, which is the key to a good offensive line, we should be pretty good.”

As for Birk, all of the new faces — Childress and Hutchinson among them — and his own health give him a new perspective on his ninth stay in Mankato.

“I just feels like a fresh start for me,” he said.

Birk bounces back (http://www.mankatofreepress.com/vikingsCamp/local_story_212004624.html?start:int=0)

singersp
07-31-2006, 01:01 PM
Posted on Mon, Jul. 31, 2006

Birk eager to prove he's healthy

BY SEAN JENSEN
Pioneer Press

MANKATO, Minn. — Four-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk can't imagine a better offseason. But he said he has one more key obstacle to clear.

"There's that final threshold that I need to cross," Birk said. "I need to put the pads on and get out there. Once I go through some practices, and there's no doubt that I'm 100 percent, then it'll symbolize to me that it's been a long road back. It's been two years. So it'll kind of be like a milestone."

Besides, for the past six to eight months, Birk said, he has been dogged by the same question: "How do you feel?"

With hip and hernia injuries sidelining him for the entire 2005 season and costing him four games in 2004, Birk acknowledged that the question is somewhat warranted.

"For me, I have to prove that, first of all, I'm healthy, and secondly, that I can still play at a level that contributes to the team," he said. "So I have a lot to prove to a lot of people. But most importantly, to myself, that I am back."

The Vikings are guardedly optimistic, knowing full well the importance of having Birk at the nucleus of their revamped offensive line.

"A center kind of directs that whole offensive line — he makes the calls, he tells people what direction to go, so that veteran leadership is huge in there just in terms of the football smarts," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "Then you get a Pro Bowl-caliber football player, as well."

A year ago, Birk was held out of the early part of training camp. Then he suffered a setback later in the preseason.

"This is a big training camp for me," Birk said. "Every year is a clean slate, a fresh start. But this year more so because of all the changes in the offseason. It kind of motivates you just a little bit more."

Wary of the heat: Childress said the Vikings are mindful of the staggering heat thus far in Mankato. The entire team will be subject to a conditioning test early today, and there will be plenty of measures to monitor the players.

Trainer Eric Sugarman and his staff will use heat sensors, which keep a constant watch of players' body temperatures. The team also added a massive cold tub on the edge of the central practice field and provided each room with a small refrigerator loaded with water and Gatorade.

"The message is hydrate," Childress said.

In addition, players' urine will be analyzed in the morning to identify candidates for dehydration.

"We really feel like we're on the pulse of that," Childress said of heat-related illnesses. "Particularly those skinny guys with very low body fat, they tend to cramp in a hurry and lose that water in a hurry. We're mindful of that, and we feel like we've got some checks and balances in place, and the coaches are mindful of it, as well."

Early prediction: Cornerback Fred Smoot said the addition of safety Dwight Smith should propel the Vikings' pass defense to the top three in the NFL.

"But, hey, it's football season now, so we've got to go out and prove it," Smoot said.

Briefly: Childress said the Vikings aren't inclined to add another kicker to take some pressure off Ryan Longwell. He said they monitor his number of kicks, just as they do the quarterbacks and punters.

• E.J. Henderson said he doesn't care which linebacker position he plays.

"In this defense, the linebackers are kind of interchangeable, but the Mike (middle linebacker) is kind of different than in the past," he said. "Either way, it doesn't matter."

Birk eager to prove he's healthy (http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/sports/football/15160828.htm)

COJOMAY
07-31-2006, 01:33 PM
Early prediction: Cornerback Fred Smoot said the addition of safety Dwight Smith should propel the Vikings' pass defense to the top three in the NFL.
I reading all these reports from training camp, one thing keeps standing out to me and that is the excitement of the players of looking forward to a great season. I don't remember ever seeing the players so ready to get going as they are this year and talking about provign how good they really are. They have me hyped, too. I am begining to think more and more each day, "hey, we have a team that's a contender here."

nephilimstorm
07-31-2006, 01:39 PM
"COJOMAY" wrote:


Early prediction Cornerback Fred Smoot said the addition of safety Dwight Smith should propel the Vikings' pass defense to the top three in the NFL.
I reading all these reports from training camp, one thing keeps standing out to me and that is the excitement of the players of looking forward to a great season. I don't remember ever seeing the players so ready to get going as they are this year and talking about provign how good they really are. They have me hyped, too. I am begining to think more and more each day, "hey, we have a team that's a contender here."Your right Cojo...they sure are a contender...and all them daunte butt sniffers can go )*(()*()()*& themselves

Vikes_King
07-31-2006, 05:35 PM
good to hear! im so glad he's back, always been one of my favorites

VikesfaninWis
07-31-2006, 05:45 PM
Can't wait to see the whole team together again.. The new players, new coaches, and new uniforms are making this season more exciting then years past..

Prophet
08-01-2006, 02:13 AM
KFFL
Vikings | Birk ready to prove he’s healthy
Mon, 31 Jul 2006 06:37:56 -0700

Sean Jensen, of the Pioneer Press, reports Minnesota Vikings OC Matt Birk (hip) is ready to show everyone he's healthy again for the 2006 season. "There's that final threshold that I need to cross," Birk said. "I need to put the pads on and get out there. Once I go through some practices, and there's no doubt that I'm 100 percent, then it'll symbolize to me that it's been a long road back. It's been two years. So it'll kind of be like a milestone." Birk said he has been dogged by the same question: "How do you feel?" With hip and hernia injuries sidelining him for the entire 2005 season and costing him four games in 2004, Birk acknowledged that the question is somewhat warranted. "For me, I have to prove that, first of all, I'm healthy, and secondly, that I can still play at a level that contributes to the team," he said. "So I have a lot to prove to a lot of people. But most importantly, to myself, that I am back."

BadlandsVikings
08-01-2006, 02:19 AM
It's good to see that everybody is eager and excited to be in camp and ready to play the season. I dom't think any of them had that last year. It's also going to be Good to have Birk back.

singersp
08-03-2006, 12:13 PM
Posted on Thu, Aug. 03, 2006

Birk glad to be back

There are no doubts left for Vikings center Matt Birk, who is healthy again and eager to quarterback an offensive line that could become one of the NFL's best this season.

BY DON SEEHOLZER
Pioneer Press

MANKATO, Minn. — Matt Birk has seen enough.

Even though wet weather turned two of the Vikings' first three full-pads practices into glorified walk-throughs, the hard-luck center has no doubt the hip and groin injuries that plagued him the past two years are behind him.

"I'm of the mind-set that I'm back," Birk said Wednesday. "There's no guessing or whatever. I'm back. That's it."

That's big news for the Vikings, who don't need to be told how much a healthy Birk could mean to their offensive line and the offense.

"The center, the majority of the time, is the leader on the line," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "He makes all the calls. He's the one that usually gets those guys going. He's the ringleader out there. So that's an important position for us. Matt Birk is a smart player, and he's going to be able to handle that 100 percent. That's what we need out of him. It's a huge deal for us to have him back in there."

As a defensive tackle, the Vikings' Pat Williams has no love for centers. But Birk is different.

"I like Birk," Williams said earlier this week. "He's real smart. He makes the right calls at the right times. He's the quarterback of our offensive line. Matt Birk is special."

Typically modest, Birk downplays the QB talk, pointing out that everyone on the line makes calls, but the four-time Pro Bowl selection is well aware of his importance to the team.

That is what made his decision to undergo season-ending hip surgery last fall so difficult.

"You always want to try to do what's best for the team," Birk said. "Last year was a unique situation, but for me personally, I'm glad the team told me to go have surgery because if I'd played last year, I know I wouldn't feel as good as I do now. Not just for football, but for life."

Last September's surgery, to repair a torn labrum in his left hip, was the fourth in the past 1½ years for Birk, who had labrum surgery on his other hip early in 2005 and underwent three sports hernia operations in 2004.

That didn't stop him from feeling guilt-ridden and somehow responsible when the Vikings' season quickly went down the tubes.

"Guilty, frustrated. It was like three, four, five times that I had surgery and was supposed to be healed," the St. Paul native said. "Each new procedure was supposed to take care of it, and it never happened. But it's also good to keep things in perspective. I'm lucky enough to play football for a living. My problems aren't anything compared to a lot of other people out there."

The Vikings' problems last season also went far beyond the loss of Birk — from quarterback Daunte Culpepper's horrible start and season-ending knee injury to a defense that didn't jell until the midway point. But Birk's absence ranks high on the list.

"That could have been one of the main things, because he was a good communicator and one of the best at his position," left tackle Bryant McKinnie said. "When you lose somebody at the top of their position, that's going to affect your team."

Anthony Herrera, who started the final six games at left guard as a rookie, said lining up next to a player with Birk's football smarts and experience makes any lineman's job easier.

"It's just knowing that you've got a guy next to you who's dependable," Herrera said. "No matter what the situation, he's going to get it done. If he makes a call, you don't have to second-guess it because you know it's the right one. It's a trust thing."

All-pro left guard Steve Hutchinson, who got to know Birk at past Pro Bowls, said the chance to play with him was one of several reasons he chose to accept the Vikings' seven-year, $49 million offer sheet during the offseason rather than remain in Seattle.

Based on what Hutchinson has seen in practice, the two could be visiting Hawaii again in February.

"He looks good," Hutchinson said. "I asked him how he was doing, and he said great. That's great news to hear. It's hard. I've been injured before and missed the majority of a season (in 2002). You're a little hesitant on one hand because you don't want to hurt it, but you can't leave that leg behind. If you do, you get hurt again. It's kind of bittersweet. You want to go, but you want to make sure nothing happens, too."

That was Birk's state of mind heading into camp, when he talked about needing a few full-pads practice to make sure he was all the way back.

Now he is convinced of it and looking forward to teaming with the left side of Hutchinson and McKinnie on what could be one of the NFL's most dominating lines.

"You don't need five great offensive linemen to be a great offensive line," Birk said. "It's all about how you work together and work as a unit. We feel we can be all right."

With a healthy Birk in the middle, that could turn out to be the understatement of the year.

Don Seeholzer can be reached at dseeholzer@pioneerpress.com.

Birk glad to be back (http://www.grandforks.com/mld/grandforks/sports/football/nfl/minnesota_vikings/15184361.htm)

JellyBean2144
08-03-2006, 03:23 PM
Good luck, Matt. I know I have said some harsh things about you in the past, but we need you healthy and happy. Go get 'em, Matt!!

COJOMAY
08-03-2006, 09:08 PM
Is Matt Birk Hurt?????
Look here: http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/clubhouse?team=min on the right side under team injuries and it lists Matt Birk as "Questionable." Anyone know what the deal is?

NodakPaul
08-03-2006, 09:38 PM
"COJOMAY" wrote:

Is Matt Birk Hurt?????
Look here: http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/clubhouse?team=min on the right side under team injuries and it lists Matt Birk as "Questionable." Anyone know what the deal is?

Don't know. The details are hidden behind an Insider link. It just starts out saying that Birk has participated at full speed so far in training camp...

Anyone out there an Insider Subscriber?

Prophet
08-03-2006, 09:44 PM
"NodakPaul" wrote:

"COJOMAY" wrote:

Is Matt Birk Hurt?????
Look here: http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/clubhouse?team=min on the right side under team injuries and it lists Matt Birk as "Questionable." Anyone know what the deal is?

Don't know. The details are hidden behind an Insider link. It just starts out saying that Birk has participated at full speed so far in training camp...

Anyone out there an Insider Subscriber?

No, but I don't think he's hurt unless it happened today. This article was published today and it was talking about how he's glad to be back. He is listed as (hip) problems but that is just a residual listing as questionable. If he was really unable to practice he would be on the PUP list. False alarm I'm guessing.

PurpleTide
08-03-2006, 10:06 PM
Lets hope its just a false alarm. With Birk back and ready to go, I look for us to be near the top in rushing this year. Man if these guys protect Brad then we can be a contender. The heart of the team is the Offensive Line and it looks like we got it goin' on.

NordicNed
08-03-2006, 10:09 PM
I think it's an old posting also, Birk has been practicing daily and playing at 100% from what I've read.......Unless something happenend today.....Let's just hope not...

NordicNed
08-03-2006, 10:16 PM
Just read todays camp update at KFAN, no where was Birk mentioned being injured....Must just be an old labeling of him that wasn't dropped....

singersp
08-06-2006, 03:28 PM
Jim Souhan: Finally healthy, Birk ready to return to front and center

The St. Paul native sat out last season because of his hernia problems, but he is now back at playing the sport he has learned to embrace over the years.

Jim Souhan, Star Tribune
Last update: August 06, 2006 – 12:44 AM

MANKATO - Vikings center Matt Birk, apparently an aspiring sports reporter, offered this news flash:
"I don't know if you noticed," he said. "Me and Joe Mauer went to the same high school. It's not very well-publicized, but there you go."

Thanks for the tip, Matty B.

Birk had just finished practice at Vikings training camp. His fellow Cretin-Derham Hall alum, Mauer, is the current cover boy for Sports Illustrated, and now Birk finally feels frisky enough to escape the cover of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Mauer and Birk might be the two most popular players on Minnesota's two most popular teams, and they have more than a hometown and high school in common. Mauer had to overcome a knee injury to become a potential batting champ. Birk spent the last two years overcoming sports hernias that threatened to end his career.

"Not feeling good for a long time, I wondered if that was it," Birk said. "I have a new appreciation for this opportunity -- just the opportunity to play -- right now.

"When I was young, I thought I'd play as long as I wanted. Now I realize how fragile this is."

On the first day of the 2004 Vikings training camp, during conditioning drills, Birk thought, "Something just is not right."

He missed four games that year because of the sports hernias, then all of 2005.

Sitting out taught him that he loves playing football more than he ever expected to -- and that his future will be in the kitchen, not the coaching profession.

"That," he said, "is correct. Last year was so boring, especially gameday, just standing there and having to watch. The one thing I did learn is I probably won't go into coaching when I'm done."

Now he's the namesake of "Matty B's Supper Club" in St. Paul, and will be opening another in Minneapolis in time for the season opener. "It will be at 501 Washington," he said. "You can put that in there if you want."

Sorry, Matt. Can't do it.

Birk says he knew nothing about restaurants "other than I liked eating in them." Now he's the rare sporting entrepreneur who can spell the word.

He went to Harvard, you know.

"I like hanging out there just to hear the stories people tell," Birk said. "It's the old Gallivan's, so there are people who have been coming in there for 30 years. It sounds cheesy, but everybody's got a story."

Birk's is this: "I didn't start playing until I was a sophomore in high school. I was going to play for one year, then I got talked into another year, and another year, and then I got talked into playing in college. I've already played for about 15 years longer than I expected.

"Do I regret not doing something else? Put it this way -- doing this for a living is probably the toughest, most difficult thing I would ever try. You push yourself and see what you've got on the inside. This game, it tests me every day.

"I never walk off the field saying, 'Man, I'm just awesome.' You always think about the bad plays. It's that constant battle. This game terrorizes you, and it keeps you awake at night, but that's what keeps you coming back."

From the modest beginnings of his career, Birk ascended to four Pro Bowls. "I've got boxes and boxes of stuff from Pro Bowls, signed by you name it," he said. "And I couldn't care less. That stuff is in boxes in the garage or basement.

"What I keep on my shelves is a Cretin football helmet signed by me, Chris Weinke, Corbin Lacina, Derek Engler and Steve Walsh, all former Cretin football players.

"Now, that's cool."

Birk, 30, can't predict how much longer he'll play. He knows his current optimism could end with one awkward block, one stab of pain.

So, adopting Mauer's Zen approach, he doesn't worry about it. "Hey, to use a Joe Mauer cliche, I'm just taking it day by day," he said. "You can't hit .400 in one day."

Birk obviously didn't make it to Harvard without acing that popular Cretin class, Sports Clichés 101.


Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon on KSTP AM 1500. jsouhan@startribune.com

Jim Souhan: Finally healthy, Birk ready to return to front and center (http://www.startribune.com/150/story/596555.html)