Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Bryant McKinnie: That Guy

NFL training camps are underway, and there really isn't much going on in them. After all, teams are just getting themselves put together. Some are installing new offenses or defenses, and others are getting to know new head or assistant coaches. Everyone is trying to get rookies and newcomers immersed in the playbook so they can get on the field with some semblance of understanding as to what the hell they are supposed to do.

The Vikings are doing a lot of these things. New head coach, new offensive coordinator, new offense, new quarterbacks, new wide receivers.

Big problem.

Left tackle Bryant McKinnie -- a controversial figure, to say the least, for the purple -- showed up to training camp looking like he ate one or more of the Gramatica brothers. Coincidentally, the Vikings placed him on the non-football injury list, a function that allows McKinnie to miss practices, work out, and return to the active roster if and when the team deems him to be properly conditioned.

But why the NFI list? The Vikings didn't say. Neither did McKinnie.

Oh, and the Vikings welcomed a new guy Monday, too.

Meanwhile, the Vikings also signed veteran Indianapolis Colts lineman Charlie Johnson, who started 27 games as Peyton Manning's blind-side blocker at left tackle the past two seasons.

... The 6-4, 305-pound Johnson, 27, has 54 career starts and 10 playoff appearances since the Colts drafted him in the sixth round in 2006. He can play guard or tackle, meaning he could replace Ryan Cook as the team's primary backup or end up starting Sept. 11 at left tackle against the Chargers.

In other words, McKinnie is that guy. The one who couldn't be bothered to keep himself in even the marginal shape his 330-pound body requires. The one who couldn't be bothered to show up in camp without embarrassing himself or his profession. The one who, despite his status as a veteran Pro Bowl player, forced his team to look for a potential replacement at his position, largely for the reasons already listed.

The Vikings made a good move adding Johnson. He's a good blocker and blind-side tackle. He's probably a better player at this stage than McKinnie, but the Vikings aren't going to easily part with such a talented guy.

A motivated and in-shape McKinnie is a beast, one who is tough for any defensive player to deal with. The McKinnie who showed up at training camp Monday is not one that any Vikings player or coach would want to take into battle. They have to hope that the NFI move and the addition of Johnson combine to get the big man going.

If it doesn't, the team could have to make a difficult decision come cutdown day.

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