Pain the price willingly paid in NFL
By Elizabeth Merrill
Updated: December 31, 2009, 11:49 AM ET
SOMEWHERE OUTSIDE BALTIMORE, JUST BEFORE 7 A.M. -- Four kids, whose ages range from 1 to 7, are snoozing in Matt and Adrianna Birk's cramped bed. They don't know that their daddy could've been a stockbroker on Wall Street, that a path of lesser resistance and stronger knees was waiting for him in his final months at Harvard. They don't know that crawling out of this bed will be one of the toughest things Birk does today.
No sick days. That's what Birk vowed when he made it to the NFL, that regardless of how he felt, he'd still wrestle on the floor with his boys and chase his little girls around the soccer field.
And on this morning, there will be plenty of running. Madison needs a ride to school, and Birk, a sturdy center who's in the final days of what the Baltimore Ravens hope is another playoff push, needs to mend a 33-year-old body that spent part of Sunday pounding against a 345-pound nose tackle in a cold, driving rain. He'll get little sympathy from his wife. She's eight months pregnant.