EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -The Vikings have made several proactive moves over the last two years by signing important players to salary cap-friendly contract extensions, and perennial Pro Bowl center Matt Birk would figure to be next on that list.
Playing the second-to-last year of the deal he signed in 2001, Birk is scheduled to draw a base salary of $5.32 million next season before becoming a free agent - unless a new contract comes his way first. Minnesota's offensive line has found an impressive rhythm this fall after frequently struggling to learn the new system and blocking scheme, and as the anchor in the middle the 31-year-old Birk has been a big part of that.
Left tackle Bryant McKinnie and right guard Anthony Herrera are two of the players the Vikings have signed to long-term extensions since coach Brad Childress was hired, and left guard Steve Hutchinson is in the early stages of the staggering seven-year, $49 million deal he got in 2006 to leave Seattle.
But Birk said after Friday's practice that he didn't feel like his contract needed to be addressed, for the moment at least.
``They haven't approached me and I haven't approached them, and I know that's the way I like it: just to worry about the task at hand right now,'' Birk said. ``We'll let that take care of itself. We're not talking about life or death here.''
The offseason, he said, will be the time to think about that. The Vikings' front office has a practice of not commenting on contract matters, but Birk's agent, Joe Linta, said Friday that it was up to the team to initiate negotiations.
``I certainly hope the best center in the league is part of their plans,'' Linta said.
Birk, who has a wife and three young daughters, must also decide how long he wants to play.
``I literally approach every year like it's my last, whether it's going to be my last because I decide it to be, or whether it's going to be my last because something happens,'' Birk said. ``When I came into the league I was kind of a long shot to make it, and I kind of look at myself like that every year. I'm very fortunate to have this job and to do this for a living.''
This week, Birk was named the Vikings' Man of the Year for the sixth straight time for his numerous school and hospital visits throughout the season. He's also the team spokesman for the United Way charity.
Growing up in St. Paul, Birk's parents taught him the importance of giving back. They made frequent visits to the Dorothy Day homeless shelter to volunteer, and Birk went on a mission trip with his church to Guatemala as a senior at Cretin-Derham Hall High School.
Minnesota's sixth-round draft pick out of Harvard in 1998, Birk quickly became involved in the team's community Tuesday programs as a rookie when Dennis Green was the coach.
``I was kind of hooked on it ever since,'' Birk said. ``It was just an amazing experience for me.''

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