It’s impressive enough that Ravens newly acquired left tackle Bryant McKinnie got through the first game of the regular season without the benefit of a single snap in a preseason game. But to do it against the rival Steelers and shut down Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison in a 35-7 rout in Baltimore?
“Not having played in over eight months, it’s something I had to mentally focus on and resort to the knowledge I’ve gained over the years,” McKinnie told me this week. “I had to remind myself, ‘Bryant, you can do this.’”
McKinnie had been released by the Vikings after he reported to training camp overweight, and didn’t sign with the Ravens until Aug. 23. The team immediately installed him as the starting left tackle, which allowed Michael Oher to move back to right tackle, where he starred as a rookie in 2009.
Reports of the 32-year-old McKinnie tipping the scales at 400 pounds were an exaggeration, he said. “I weighed 386 when I got there. Now I’m down to 363.” (graph)
McKinnie, the seventh overall pick in the 2002 draft, said it was actually his decision to leave Minnesota after he opted not to restructure his contract.
“I started out there and was there for a long period of time, and after a while, I wanted to get a fresh start,” he said. “I had no clue where I would head to next.”
So why why pick the Ravens, who signed him to a two-year, $7.5 million deal? It was a tough decision, especially after getting so many calls from players around the league asking him to play for their own teams.
“It was a whirlwind,” he said. “I had Reggie Wayne who wanted me to come to Indy, D.J. Williams Denver, a few others.”
But the calls that made the most impact were from Ed Reed and Ray Lewis in Baltimore. In the end, it was Lewis who convinced McKinnie to sign with the Ravens.
“His attitude was kind of like, ‘There’s no decision. This is where you’re coming.’”
And now? “I’m glad I’m here,” McKinnie said.
So are the Ravens.