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Ravens center Matt Birk returned to practice on Saturday, his first since undergoing surgery on his left knee and an encouraging sign that the team could field its first offensive line in time for the regular-season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 11.

Prior to Birk's appearance at practice, coach John Harbaugh acknowledged that there is some uncertainty surrounding Birk's status.

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"Matt was just a situation where we just have to see how he is," Harbaugh said. "It takes a certain amount of time. First of all, we're going to have to see if the surgery actually worked, if there's going to be improvement. That's a question mark, so he may be battling this thing all year just like he did last year. And then just how well he can move the knee and then push it, and then the next day, how he comes back and recovers and then what he can do the next day. Obviously, we're shooting for the opener there, and anything we get before then would be a bonus."Birk has missed the Ravens' first three preseason games, giving way to Bryan Mattison to start at center over that span. Offensive line coach Andy Moeller sounded about as curious as everyone else to see how Birk fared.

"We're going to find out today because today's going to be the first time he's out on the field, and that progresses," Moeller said. "So how that's going to go, how that's going to feel later on tonight and then coming back on Monday and all that kind of stuff. But it's more to him getting back and banging and getting around there ready to go. As far as making the calls and doing all of those things, he is well-versed. He's been in meetings, and he's stayed on top of his game. So he'll be ready just to see how it feels and see how his knee progresses."

One player eager to line up with Birk is Bryant McKinnie. The massive left tackle played with Birk between 2002 and 2008 for the Minnesota Vikings.

"Definitely have some chemistry with Matt Birk," said McKinnie, who was signed by the Ravens on Wednesday. "We have great communication skills between us. I'm used to playing with Matt Birk, so it'll be like old times."

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