Vikings tackle Bryant McKinnie

Jerry Holt, Star Tribune file


Today's practice: 9-11:05 a.m., Minnesota State Mankato • Preseason opener: Aug. 11 at Tennessee

A large issue on Day 1

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG
  • Star Tribune
  • August 2, 2011 - 1:08 AM

MANKATO - The Vikings opened training camp Monday with a pair of moves that suggest left tackle Bryant McKinnie might not be ready for the regular-season opener, or any time soon after that.

Meanwhile, receiver Bernard Berrian restructured his contract in a move that reduces his salary cap number from $6.3 million, makes him more likely to stay with the team in 2011 and allows him to become a free agent after next season rather than after the 2013 season.

Berrian didn't practice Monday, per rules of the new collective bargaining agreement pertaining to players with new contracts. His absence from drills, however, was overshadowed by the two big moves at left tackle.

Appearing out of playing shape and heavier than normal this time of year, McKinnie was placed on the non-football injury list for reasons neither he nor coach Leslie Frazier would specify. 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.

McKinnie can come off the NFI list at any point during the preseason, but he would have to miss six games if he is not removed before the Sept. 11 opener at San Diego. McKinnie also could forfeit his $500,000 roster bonus, his $250,000 workout bonus and at least a portion of his $4.9 million salary this season.

The move explains the Vikings' recent interest in Saints free-agent left tackle Jermon Bushrod and, obviously, Monday's transaction. 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.

"It's possible" Johnson could be a starter somewhere on the line this season, said Frazier, who shared a Super Bowl victory with Johnson when the two were together in Indianapolis. "He's been a swing guy who can start. He can also play guard. You need guys on the offensive line that can play multiple positions, and he gives us that. So we'll see how it pans out."

How it unfolds will depend on how quickly McKinnie can get back into shape. He spent Monday's practice working on his conditioning off to the side along with right guard Anthony Herrera, who is on the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list because he's coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Asked why he wasn't practicing, McKinnie said, "Because I have some issues with my ... I just got some issues." Asked if conditioning was the problem, he said, "My conditioning will help me, will be better for me." He then declined to say whether he's dealing with an injury.

Frazier said McKinnie did not fail his physical.

"He's on NFI and we're going to take a look at some things and just try to get him where we need him to be," Frazier said. "But Bryant's going to be fine. He's going to be fine. We've just got to go through some things and get him ready for the things that are ahead."

Frazier said he couldn't discuss specifics. He also said the NFI list can be used for "a myriad of things. It can be injury, it can be illness."

Meanwhile, Berrian said he's "definitely pleased" with restructuring his deal and is not motivated by the team wanting to reduce his salary cap number.

"I don't let contracts motivate me," Berrian said. "I just get motivated by myself."

Frazier said he and Berrian spoke at length before the lockout about the receiver's role in 2011.

"He's going to have a great year," Frazier said. "I really believe that."

As for McKinnie, well ... stay tuned.

© 2018 Star Tribune