Birk wants brain put to good use

Guys who play center are supposed to be among the smartest football players.

They’re responsible for getting the ball snapped, making sure everyone on the line has the audibles and adjustments on their blocking assignments understood.

Matt Birk is a smart guy. The Baltimore Ravens center and Harvard graduate, who will line up against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in the Super Bowl in New Orleans, knows he’s probably in for a tough life after football, and he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune this week that when he dies, he wants to donate his brain to science.

With concussions in sports a hot topic these days, Birk, a 15-year NFL veteran, said he’s worried that all the hits he’s taken over the years possibly will lead to an unhealthy life after football. So he wants to let doctors look at his brain to see if it will help future football players avoid problems.

“Terrible pun, but it’s a no-brainer,” said Birk, who said he has had at least three concussions from football. “Once you’re gone, you’re gone. And if some of your organs or body parts can help somebody else or help further the understanding of the effects of football, then I’m all for it.”

Birk will donate his brain to Boston University’s medical school that studies chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain disease that can be caused by repetitive head trauma and has been discovered in several deceased NFL players.

■ FREE PERFORMANCE – When Beyonce does her thing during halftime Sunday, she’ll be doing it for free.

That’s right, free.

The NFL’s policy always has been not to pay an appearance fee to those who perform at halftime of the Super Bowl. Which means Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, the Who, U2 and Up with People have performed gratis.

Remember Up with People? That wholesome, young, family-oriented group of singers that first performed during Super Bowl V and was a quasi-regular during the Pete Rozelle regime, appearing five times, the last in 1986.

Beyonce, who with her husband, Jay-Z, are worth a reported $775 million, probably can afford to work for free for 15 to 20 minutes.

■ FATHER VS. SON – Jim Harbaugh has enough to contend with coaching against his brother, John, on Sunday. But the 49ers coach also has to deal with his son Jay, who is on John’s staff with the Ravens as an intern.

Jay Harbaugh, 23, told the Los Angeles Times that while he loves his father, his loyalty is to his uncle at the moment.

“I couldn’t fathom even considering not being all in with the team that I’m a part of,” he said. “Any true competitor feels the exact same way. You have to be totally all in with your team, sold on the vision. Otherwise, there’s no point. No point to being a part of it, putting in all the time that you do and making the sacrifices.

“In some alternate universe, if I was conflicted, it would just confuse my dad. It would confuse any true competitor, because you can’t reconcile those things in your head. If you’re all in, you’re all in. … It’s an all-or-nothing proposition for that whole week.”


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