OWINGS MILLS, Md. - The only reason why Matt Birk brought his aching knees and battered body to training camp for a 15th NFL season was to get to the Super Bowl.
The 36-year-old Birk was bothered by neck, elbow and knee injuries during his previous three years with the Baltimore Ravens, yet he never missed a start. During the offseason, the six-time Pro Bowl center underwent surgery to repair varicose veins in his legs.
Still, Birk knew the Ravens had a shot at a championship, and he wanted to be a part of it.
Birk, safety Ed Reed and guard Bobbie Williams head a list of longtime veterans who will be making their first Super Bowl appearance when the Ravens face the San Francisco 49ers on Feb. 3.
"It's great, obviously," he said. "That's the goal. That's your dream. That's why you play."
Reed, 34, has earned nine Pro Bowl invitations in 11 years with Baltimore and has long been recognized as one of the finest free safeties in the game. But he never got into the Super Bowl until now, and to make it even sweeter, his first appearance will be in his home state of Louisiana.
"It's been a long time coming, but it takes time," Reed said. "We've built up to this point."
Teammate Jacoby Jones, who grew up in New Orleans, will be making his Super Bowl debut in his sixth season. After the Ravens beat New England 28-13 in the AFC championship game, Reed prepared for a trip to familiar territory with Jones in tow.
Williams, a backup on the line, played for Philadelphia and Cincinnati before getting into the Super Bowl in his 13th NFL season. Linebacker Terrell Suggs (10th season) and former Houston Texans stars Vonta Leach (ninth) and Bernard Pollard (seventh) signed as free agents with Baltimore for the chance to perform on the sport's grandest stage.
First-down line could be coming to NFL stadiums
BALTIMORE (AP) - Fans watching NFL games on television have grown accustomed to the imaginary yellow line that runs across the field in accord with the first-down marker.
That first-down line could become part of the in-game experience at all 32 NFL stadiums.
Alan Amron, with financial backing from former NFL player and broadcaster Pat Summerall, has developed the First Down Laser System. Amron says the system projects a first-down line across the field that can be seen in the stadium and on TV.
Amron, an entrepreneur and concept promoter, first met with the NFL in 2003 and again in 2009. There may be future meetings soon.
FPA proposes revisions to Rooney Rule
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Fritz Pollard Alliance is calling for the NFL to expand the Rooney Rule to include coordinators, assistant head coaches and club president positions.
The proposal sent Tuesday to NFL executives comes a week after no minorities were hired for eight coaching vacancies and seven general manager openings. There are only four minority head coaches going into the 2013 season, the fewest since 2003.
NFL lifts suspension of Saints coach Payton
NEW YORK (AP) - NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has reinstated New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton following a season-long suspension for his role in the team's bounty scandal.
The announcement comes Tuesday, a day after Payton met with Goodell. At the meeting, Payton took responsibility for the actions of his coaching staff.