Harbaugh knows changes coming for Ravens

Harbaugh knows changes coming for Ravens
January 22, 2013, 6:15 pm
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B-Mitch talks Super Bowl with John Harbaugh

The end isn't just near for Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, but several others could see their careers end, win or lose, at Feb 3 at the Super Bowl in New Orleans.

Center Matt Birk, 36, is on the verge of retirement. He insisted that he won’t make a decision yet, but when he spoke after Sunday’s 28-13 victory at the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game it seemed possible. Playing on a winner, however, helps. 

"At this stage of my career, losing takes a lot out of you," Birk said Monday. "I wouldn't have come back if I didn't think there was a legitimate chance that I could help the team."

Quarterback Joe Flacco is up for a new deal and never was going anywhere, regardless of Sunday’s result. It is just a matter of how much the Ravens will pay him.

But a team that doesn't have much salary cap room to wiggle won’t be able to keep linebackers Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe, cornerback Cary Williams and safety Ed Reed.

"This group will never be together again as that group. They will never be the same. That’s the way it is with every team," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "So, to extend that now for two weeks into the ultimate game is really the ultimate opportunity, and we’re going to do everything we can to make the most of it.”

Reed has spent all 11 seasons in Baltimore and is playing in his first Super Bowl. He threatened to hold out if he didn't get a new deal. Neither happened. It could be more likely that he plays elsewhere rather than retire.

Kruger had a team-high 9.5 sacks and is used in pass situations. Ellerbe has been their best defensive player all season, and when he went down for three games with an ankle injury the Ravens lost them all.

Left tackle Bryant McKinnie, 33, who didn't start a single regular season game for the first time in his 11-year career but has been in the lineup for three in the playoffs, doesn't have a contract beyond this season.

Guard Bobbie Williams, 36, acquired in the off-season, made six starts but has been a disappointment and is unlikely to return after his 12th season ends. Williams has been slowed as he recovered from a broken ankle that required surgery one year ago. 

Birk makes light of his eventual departure, which will come sooner than later. 

"A guy like Ray Lewis, you send him off properly (with) press conferences, all that stuff," Birk said. "Guys like me, I just disappear, and then you're sitting around one day wondering, 'Hey, whatever happened to that guy whose locker used to be over here?' That's how it goes."

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