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Birk leaves Vikingsto sign with Ravens

Center receives a three-year contract for $12 million

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings have lost center Matt Birk to the Baltimore Ravens.

Birk agreed on a three-year contract for $12 million with $6 million guaranteed Wednesday after being impressed by his visit to Baltimore. The Ravens just lost last year’s starting center Jason Brown to a lucrative free-agent deal with the St. Louis Rams, but they filled that hole by snatching up Birk on the same day they agreed on a new contract for star linebacker Ray Lewis.

Now Birk’s departure leaves the Vikings with a big void.

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John Sullivan returns at the position, but he was a sixth-round draft pick and played sparingly behind Birk as a rookie last season. Another option is incumbent right tackle Ryan Cook, who played some center in college.

The 32-year-old Birk was a sixth-round draft pick himself out of Harvard after growing up in St. Paul and playing at Cretin-Derham Hall High School. He became a starter in his third season and was picked for six Pro Bowls over his 11 years with Minnesota. His everyman image, founded in the early part of his career when he lived in the basement in a house with some of his hometown buddies, helped make him a fan favorite even though offensive linemen fly mostly under the radar.

His charity work was exemplary, too; he was one of three finalists for the NFL’s Man of the Year in 2008 — an award issued to the player combining on-field excellence with off-the-field community service.

The Ravens are scheduled to play the Vikings at the Metrodome this season. Coach Brad Childress was traveling Wednesday to San Diego for his son’s graduation from Marine Corps basic training. In a statement issued by the team, Childress thanked Birk for his contributions on and off the field.

"Matt has done a great job and we wanted him to return to the Vikings in ’09, but at this point Matt wanted a change of scenery," Childress said. "We wish him the best and know that he will always be a part of the Vikings family."

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