MANKATO - The Vikings always seemed willing to put up with Bryant McKinnie's antics because the athletic ability he possessed was simply too great to jettison him.
When the 6-8 left tackle was involved in the infamous "Love Boat" incident on Lake Minnetonka in 2005, or a street brawl in Miami in 2008, or decided to bolt from the Pro Bowl in 2010, the Vikings forgave him and hoped things would change.
On Tuesday, that patience finally ran out. The Vikings announced they had released McKinnie.
The final straw came when McKinnie showed up to training camp weighing far more than what the Vikings wanted -- close to 400 pounds, according to an NFL source. His listed weight was 335. The decision was interesting because above-average left tackles aren't easy to find.
The Vikings helped their salary- cap situation with the move. McKinnie had a cap number of $5.4 million for this season, with a base salary of $4.9 million. He was due a roster bonus of $500,000 and a workout bonus of $250,000. McKinnie had been placed on the non-football injury list (NFI) Monday as the Vikings tried to decide what to do with him.
An NFL source said Tuesday that McKinnie had not refused to rework his contract, an indication the Vikings really were set on getting rid of him. McKinnie, 31, gave an indication of what happened Tuesday afternoon by tweeting, "It's been fun." Later, he tried to pass it off as his decision.
The move provides a clear signal that new coach Leslie Frazier and vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman aren't going to put up with any of the nonsense that helped derail the Vikings last season.
"This decision, while not an easy one, is in the best interests of our football team as we move forward preparing for the season," Frazier said in a statement released by the team. "We appreciate Bryant's contributions to the Vikings, and we wish him the best in the future."
Frazier had addressed the media in a news conference in the late morning, but was evasive in his answers.
"We just want to make sure we are doing the right thing by every guy that is wearing the purple," Frazier said.
Charlie Johnson, who had been with the Colts and was signed as a free agent on Monday, will inherit McKinnie's No. 74 and also the starting job at left tackle Thursday. Veterans who signed as free agents aren't allowed on the field until that day because the collective bargaining agreement has yet to be ratified.
As for McKinnie's future, that remains unclear. He told celebrity gossip website TMZ that his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, asked that McKinnie be released so he can sign with another team before next season. McKinnie explained that he was placed on the NFI after doctors said his cholesterol was too high and he had to lose weight.
"I'll definitely be ready for next season," McKinnie said. "That's not even a question."
Rosenhaus did not return a call or e-mail sent by the Star Tribune.
The seventh overall selection in the 2002 draft by the Vikings, McKinnie proved to be a durable, yet maddening, player during his nine seasons. As agile as he might have been, McKinnie always seemed to lack the on-the-field killer instinct that many of the great linemen possess.
McKinnie conducted a lengthy holdout after being drafted and missed the first eight games. But he started the final seven that season and did not miss another start until 2008 when he sat out the first four games after being suspended for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. That suspension came after the street brawl outside a Miami nightclub. McKinnie also had been docked a game check ($41,176) in 2006 for his involvement in the boat party on Lake Minnetonka.
Despite that incident, McKinnie received a seven-year contract extension worth $48.5 million in September 2006 that was supposed to run through 2013. The deal included $18 million in guarantees.
McKinnie did nothing to help his cause -- and caused plenty of anger in the Vikings organization -- after the 2009 season when he was kicked off the NFC Pro Bowl team after skipping three of the four practices, the team photo and all but the first meeting Tuesday night. McKinnie tried to explain that he was unable to play because of injury, but by then the league had made its decision to kick him off the team.