Ravens' Birk earns Payton award for his efforts on, off the field

INDIANAPOLIS -- Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk is the Walter Payton Man of the Year.

The award honors a player for his off-the-field work as well as for his playing excellence.

Birk, a 14-year NFL veteran, has made 96 consecutive starts and is one of the Ravens' team leaders. He also supports youth literacy with a program called "Ready, Set, Read," through his HIKE Foundation.

Birk also has agreed to donate his brain and spinal cord tissue to the Boston University's Center for Traumatic Encephalopathy, which researches the effects of repetitive head trauma.

The award will be presented Sunday by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Payton's two children -- Jarrett and Brittney -- before the Giants and Patriots play in the Super Bowl.

The other finalists were San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers and Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman.

"This award is not about the recipient," Birk said, "but rather a celebration of the decades-long tradition of NFL players using their unique platform to touch lives and make a positive and lasting impact in the communities in which they work and live."

NFL Charities makes a $1,000 donation to the charity chosen by each team's winner, a $5,000 donation to the three finalists' favorite charity and $20,000 donation to the winner's choice.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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