Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk earlier this season. Greg Bartram, USA TODAY Sports
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens veteran center Matt Birk told USA TODAY Sports his team was prepping for next Sunday's championship against the San Francisco 49ers to unfurl as the most physical Super Bowl ever.
"It should be a bloodbath,'' the 15th-year veteran told USA TODAY Sports Saturday. "We have all offseason to heal up. So nobody will be saving anything.
"They are good. Their defense brings it. They're as good a defense as I've ever played against."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh put his team through a grueling, padded, training-camp-like Friday practice followed by an up-tempo Saturday practice in shells. The Ravens will fly Monday to New Orleans.
Ravens team leaders had talked Harbaugh out of going to a padded practice in Week 7 after their 43-13 rout by the Houston Texans. But Ravens players were on board with Harbaugh's Friday decision to ramp up the intensity in full pads against his brother Jim's punishing team.
"It's two physical football teams that pride themselves on playing aggressively,'' said tight end Dennis Pitta. "It's two great defenses. And we know this Super Bowl is going to be a slugfest.
"We have to be able to match their physicality. It's always good to get back in pads (Friday) and get into more of a game-like mentality.''
The 49ers offensive line includes three first-round picks, and their read-option attack is led by dual-threat quarterback Colin Kaepernick and tailback Frank Gore, the franchise all-time leader in yards and touchdowns.
"It will definitely be a physical game,'' defensive lineman Haloti Ngata said. "Their line is huge and physical, and Gore is one of the best running backs in the league. And they also have a fast runner in LaMichael James.
"We're out to match their physicality.''
Jim Corbett, USA TODAY Sports