Birk, a St. Paul native who grew up rooting for the Vikings, was a sixth-round choice by Minnesota in the 1998 draft out of Harvard. A long shot to make the roster when he arrived, Birk was a reserve for his first two seasons.
He took over as the starting center in 2000 and went on to be selected to six Pro Bowls. Despite his connection to Minnesota, Birk said leaving the Vikings wasn't that difficult a decision.
"It wasn't tough because I know this is the right place for me and my family right now," Birk said of Baltimore. "Obviously, I love Minnesota and Minnesota will always be home. But there is something special going on out here and I knew this was the place and had to be a part of it."
The Vikings' options to replace Birk include John Sullivan, a sixth-round pick out of Notre Dame in 2008, moving right tackle tackle Ryan Cook inside or starting right guard Anthony Herrera. They also could explore the market, but their options would be limited.
Sullivan spent his rookie season watching Birk.
"I learned a lot just about the NFL," Sullivan said shortly after the season. "I learned how it works, and I learned a lot from Matt about the center position. He was a great teacher for me, a great resource, and I think it was really valuable for me here as I continue my career."
Coach Brad Childress seemed encouraged about Sullivan's development when asked about him at the NFL Scouting Combine.
"John Sullivan is a guy that football is important to," Childress said. "He's a smart guy. I will say he's the first guy that has been back in the building (this offseason). I don't know if he got bored in Connecticut or what. I looked up one day and he's on the treadmill. I go, ‘What the heck are you doing here?' He's got A) football IQ, and he wants to be good."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't think it can hurt at all. There will be nuances, there already are. We were talking about some of the idiosyncrasies of the reads and formations. But there will be enough there that he will have a pretty good understanding as we start." – Vikings coach Brad Childress on how much it will help that quarterback Sage Rosenfels is familiar with the West Coast system. Rosenfels was acquired from Houston last week and will compete with Tarvaris Jackson for the starting job.