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, 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.
A DIFFERENT SUPER BOWL BOND: When Patriots offensive lineman Marcus Cannon met Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich at the NFL's rookie symposium last year, they had a lot to talk about.
There's a bond that goes much deeper than their rookie status.
Cannon was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma less than a week before the NFL draft. The fifth-round pick ended up getting eight chemotherapy treatments stretched over 24 draining weeks that cured the disease.
Herzlich became one of his resources and supporters.
"I called him a couple of times and asked him questions," Cannon said. "There's a lot of (cancer) stories out there. His is one I can most relate to. We just talked a lot."
Herzlich overcame a rare form of bone cancer in his left leg while at Boston College and returned to football. Although their cases were much different, they could relate to the challenges of going through chemotherapy and trying to hold onto hope.
"It wasn't fun," Cannon said. "Sitting there for six hours a day on the bed wasn't fun at all. I just had to have faith."
Cannon opened the season on a medical list. He had his last chemotherapy treatment in September and began feeling better a few weeks later. He practiced with the Giants for the first time in late October. He has played in the last nine games.
Like Herzlich, he appreciates everything a little more.
"There's a lot of things that change," Cannon said. "You understand life is precious."
OLYMPIC PREVIEW: Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt at the Super Bowl?
NBC will use its main event to promo its next big thing, airing a 60-second promotional ad for this summer's London Olympics during Sunday's Super Bowl pre-game show. The spot will feature Phelps and Bolt, the biggest stars of the last Summer Games, along with swimmers Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin; beach volleyball players Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh; and reigning world gymnastics champion Jordyn Wieber.
NBC has broadcast every Summer Games since 1988, and has the rights to the Olympics through 2020.
Sunday's Super Bowl between the New York Giants and New England Patriots begins at 6:29 p.m. EST.
NO MAGIC HOTEL ROOM: Fans weren't the only ones having a hard time finding a place to stay for Super Bowl weekend. The Orlando Magic couldn't even book a room for the night before Saturday's game against the Indiana Pacers.
The Magic were aware of the problem when the NBA released the 66-game schedule in December. The Magic stayed in Covington, Ky. — just outside Cincinnati — on Friday night before flying to Indy on Saturday afternoon.
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said the team wanted to stay in Orlando and fly out the same day as the game, but the NBA wouldn't allow it.
"I guess they were afraid of bad weather, so instead they made us do the double flight," he said. "It would have been easier the other way, but what was easier was not what the NBA was interested in."
Van Gundy added: "You have all of these things that you're sort of used to, but this is a different one for me. Get up and leave the hotel at 1:30 and then get here at like 4 o'clock. It's not a game day I've ever had before."
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