Ravens’ Birk fined $5,000 for refusing to wear a microphone

Chris Chase

Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk plans to appeal the $5,000 fine assessed by the NFL this week after he refused to wear an embedded microphone in his pads during the team's last game against the New York Jets.

Birk told reporters the microphone, used by television production teams to pick up audio at the line of scrimmage, was bothering him before the game.

"When I went out for warm-ups, the microphone came loose and was jabbing my neck," he said. "It was tucked in there pretty tight and I couldn't get it back in there, so I just took it off. Then I was notified that I'm not supposed to do that."

A Harvard grad like Birk should know that ignorance of the rules can't be used as a defense. Still, he says he now knows the rule and will appeal his fine. "I've got my 6th kid on the way," he said to WNST. "I need all the money I can for diapers and Cheerios"

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Pro Football Talk reported earlier this month that two offensive lineman per team would be required to wear microphones during games to provide audio for televised game broadcasts. Microphones had been placed on umpires' hats previously, but when those officials moved their on-field positioning, the league needed a different way to get the ambient audio mix of the line of scrimmage.

The NFL claims the mics are only active between the break of the huddle and the impact of offense and defense after the snap and that none of the audio can be isolated. That's great but, come on, we all saw "The Naked Gun" and know what can happen when someone forgets to flip off the microphone. How can you blame Birk and other offensive linemen for not wanting to have an eavesdropping device they can't turn off placed in their uniform?* As much as I'd like to hear what is said underneath those fumble piles, I can't imagine players want fans to.

* This is why I rarely enjoy those Mic'd Up segments on ESPN and NFLN. I want to believe it's real and know that a lot of it is. But, really, it's as disingenuous as reality television. The players know someone is listening and behave accordingly. I'd guess that 90 percent of all playful banter with officials comes when players have a microphone on them.

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Whether this is about team preservation or self preservation doesn't matter. Though players need to sacrifice some things for the good of the game, this hardly seems worth the fight for the NFL. Live broadcasts of football games have enough audio problems -- weird, digital feedback; slight delays; Dan Dierdorf -- so how much does a mic embedded in a shoulder pad improve the game experience? If it's that important for the NFL to have audio of Joe Flacco barking out signals, don't use the players. The new iPhone can answer the question "Do I need an umbrella today?", so surely the NFL can figure out a way to get better audio on the line of scrimmage.

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