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Birk moving up in National Football League

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Big Matt Birk, who visited Wadena in April as the featured guest of Tri County Health Care's Men's Night Out, has a new job with the National Football League.

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The St. Paul man, who was eying a Wall Street career after graduating from Harvard in 1998, was drafted as a tackle in the sixth round by Minnesota. He converted to center and had a 15-year football career with the Vikings and the Baltimore Ravens, has been named the league's director of player development.

Birk will be working with all 32 of the NFL's teams in developing personnel at all levels, assisting in the administration of game day operations and guide the NFL's Scouting Combine.

The six-time Pro Bowl pick, who wears a Super Bowl ring which he earned with Baltimore's XLVII World Championship team, worked as an NFL/NFLPA appeals judge last season.

The NFL is butting heads with some big issues these days. They recently reached a settlement with more than 5,000 former players who were seeking damages for problems such as

Neurodegenerative problems such a Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), chronic traumatic encephalopathy and dementia.

Interviewing Birk back in April when he visited Wadena, I learned the NFL is trying to deal with the problems of neurological damage but he also talked about the inherent dangers of sports and life in general. Birk feels the size and speed of the players is something that can't be regulated in the NFL.

Northwestern football players made a statement in April when they cast secret ballots on the question of forming the nation's first union for college athletes. If the athletes prevail in their fight with Northwestern's administration, the NFL's long-standing tradition of stocking their rosters with the nation's best college football players would likely see some changes. College football is big business and the institutions of higher learning with good teams have reaped millions from their regular and post-season games.

Birk is one former college player who believes the NCAA has mismanaged a lot of things but he likes the scholarship system because he worked his way through college. Birk acknowledges the he system is not perfect, but because colleges are so competitive these days, he maintained it is a "pretty good deal."

Birk believes there should be added protection for athletes in college when it comes to injuries. He would tell you from his experience as an NFL appeals judge the game has never been safer, and the future of the game depends on it being safe.

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