Message sent, but McKinnie move comes with risks

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  • August 2, 2011 - 6:16 PM

MANKATO -- These are not your 2010 Vikings.

Leslie Frazier made that crystal clear on Tuesday when he decided that the Vikings would be better off without Bryant McKinnie on the roster.

Frazier was the Vikings defensive coordinator last season before replacing Brad Childress as interim coach for the final six games. He was rewarded with the permanent job after the season and owner Zygi Wilf made it clear that the new coach and vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman would work hand-in-hand on football decisions.

On Tuesday, the two decided that after seeing Sidney Rice and Randy Moss (among others) turn Winter Park into a circus last year, that enough was enough.

McKinnie showed up to camp well over 350 pounds. The Vikings could have kept him on the non-football injury list and told him to get in shape. They could have reinstated him to the roster and hoped he would get up to speed in his conditioning.

They could have done what the Vikings have done so many times before -- think Love Boat, street fight in Miami, walking out on the Pro Bowl -- and crossed their fingers and hoped McKinnie would mature. But McKinnie is 31-years-old and it's clear if you follow him on Twitter that his biggest interest isn't ever going to be football.

McKinnie's issue is that he is a 6-foot-8 man who is incredibly agile and gifted athletically. That gives him the makeup to be a very good football player. But mentally he never seemed like a guy who really wanted it on the field. If anything, he was one of the most laidback players in the Vikings locker room. McKinnie was a guy who was doing a job because he knew he could make money at it and be better than many.

But he never embraced that job.

McKinnie indicated to TMZ that he might sit out a year and then try to return in 2012. Maybe he'll never try to play again. It wouldn't be surprising.

The Vikings, meanwhile, know there is a definite risk to this move. They sent an incredibly strong message by releasing McKinnie, but now they must replace him. Charlie Johnson, signed as a free agent from the Colts on Monday, is going to be the guy for now. He played left tackle in Indianapolis but isn't at McKinnie's level as a player. Or should I say, McKinnie's level when he felt like playing.

One would think Donovan McNabb is watching this situation closely. McNabb is going to turn 35 in November, doesn't move like he used to and now the guy he thought would be his blindside protector is gone. He might not be thrilled.

The Vikings, though, decided that McNabb potentially having to watch his back this season was better than continuing to put up with the type of stunts that caused them to free-fall to the bottom of the NFC North last season.


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