FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. — The next time Bryant McKinnie uses Twitter to plead for your Pro Bowl vote, tell him to go tweet himself.
The Vikings left tackle was dismissed from the NFC team Saturday, capping a week in which the first-time Pro Bowl selection embarrassed himself, the Vikings and the league by blowing off his Pro Bowl responsibilities by day and tweeting up his well-documented partying exploits by night.
Scheduled to play right tackle in Sunday night's game, McKinnie leaves the NFC team with the Eagles' Jason Peters and the Giants' David Diehl as the only tackles. Needless to say, McKinnie's Pro Bowl teammates weren't happy that Big Mac openly partied while skipping three of the four practices, the team photo and all but the first meeting Tuesday night. None of the absences was excused, meaning McKinnie is subject to a league fine and will forfeit his game check of either $45,000 for an NFC win or $22,500 for a loss.
"I can't speak for him, but all I know is I respect being here," Diehl said. "I haven't played since the regular season, but if I have to play the whole game [at right tackle], I'll do it. To me, it's an honor to be one of the guys here. I wanted to be a part of it when I decided I would come down here and play."
McKinnie had other ideas. None of them involved acting like a grown man. Or proving that he belonged among the NFL's best players. Or remembering all the times he complained that his off-the-field issues were the only reason he didn't make the Pro Bowl sooner.
McKinnie told us he had changed. He was 30 and eight years into his career. He was no longer the face of the Vikings' 2005 Love Boat fiasco. He was no longer the guy who served a four-game suspension in 2008 after being arrested for brawling outside a Miami nightclub.
"I've got a lot of that stuff out of my system and have just been able to move on," McKinnie told the Star Tribune this season.
McKinnie proceeded to use his Twitter account, bigmacvikings, to beg for 379,885 Pro Bowl fan votes, the most of any NFC offensive tackle. The fan vote counts as one-third of the selection process.
Then Pro Bowl week arrived and McKinnie did nothing but confirm the perceptions of him as a guy who can't control himself off the field. In recent memory, the only other player dismissed from the Pro Bowl was then-Buccaneers defensive end Simeon Rice in 2004.
"I've coached in four of them, and I've never seen anything like this," said Hudson Houck, offensive line coach for the Cowboys and the NFC team. "He said Tuesday that he had the flu. Maybe it was the flu."
Twitter would suggest it wasn't the flu. McKinnie, who played in college at the University of Miami, tweeted Thursday night that he was at Mansion Miami, a nightclub in Miami Beach. Friday night, he tweeted that he was leaving the beach to go to King of Diamonds, a strip club.
"Really?" Houck said. "Well, this really is kind of a unique situation."
McKinnie missed practice Friday and Saturday. And by "practice" we mean players spending about 45 minutes clowning around with no helmets, no pads and less contact than checkers.
After a league spokesman confirmed McKinnie's dismissal, he responded to a text from our guy Chip Scoggins. In it, he said his body is hurting, that he's having problems with his feet and "I decided I didn't wanna play."
Saturday night, ESPN.com reported McKinnie released a statement through his publicist saying he withdrew because of injury. He said he wanted to "apologize if I may have disappointed you in any way, but getting back 100 percent healthy at this time is my No. 1 concern to perform even better in the upcoming season."
Meanwhile, Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson, a seven-time Pro Bowl player and a member of the NFL's most recent team of the decade, will play two weeks before shoulder surgery.
The amazing part is all McKinnie had to do was give up about an hour a day. Then he could have partied his brains out without facing a hint of criticism. He could have played and defended himself against a blogosphere that mocked his selection, which came two days after he was benched during a prime-time beatdown from Carolina's Julius Peppers.
Instead, McKinnie's image has never looked worse. But, hey, on a lighter note, check out Twitter. Maybe our Purple hero will tweet which strip club he's watching the game from Sunday night.
Mark Craig • firstname.lastname@example.org