Matt Birk, who won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens and is now a special adviser to the NFL, says “football is under attack” and the game “isn’t going anywhere.”
Birk, who played 210 games in a 14-year career, serves on the board of USA Football is vice president of development for American Youth Football and coaches his fourth-grade son in tackle football.
He told the St. Paul Pioneer Press this week that he sees football’s benefits as far outweighing the risks.
“There’s no question. Football teaches discipline, teamwork, there’s a brotherhood,” he told the Pioneer Press. “People say, ‘Can’t you get that from other sports?’ You can get some of that. Football is unique. Nobody loves blocking people or hitting people, but you do it for the good of the team. I think the things you learn in football are critical.
“Is it for everybody? No. I didn’t start playing football until the 10th grade. There’s a place for everybody on a football team.”
In 2013, Birk announced that he would donate his brain to Boston University’s School of Medicine for concussion research. He said he has three concussions in his career — one in high school, one in college and one in the NFL.
He also was critical of the recent study that showed 110 of 111 brains of NFL players Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.
Birk said the study and the reporting around concussion issues are only part of the story and football’s future is not in peril.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “You’re really hearing only one side. Football is kind of under attack in the media. You have millions and millions of people who play football and love it. People are coaching football for free, trying to make boys into men. There are people passionate about football who believe in its power and purpose. Football isn’t going anywhere.”