(Updated: 9:20 a.m.)
At first glance, the absence of Bryant McKinnie from the Ravens’ first full-squad practice on Thursday was concerning but hardly surprising.
The left tackle was held out of the team’s mandatory minicamp last month due to conditioning reasons, leaving many to wonder if the 32-year-old would be able to get down to 345 pounds by the start of training camp as the Ravens requested. McKinnie said he weighed 354 pounds in mid-June and vowed to silence his doubters when training camp began.
Instead, his status in Baltimore is up in the air with no clear timetable for a resolution.
Though a team official indicated earlier in the day that McKinnie had failed the required conditioning test, coach John Harbaugh revealed information that presented an even higher level of concern for the state of the offensive line entering training camp. The 11-year veteran not only failed to practice on Thursday, but he hasn’t even reported to the team’s facility in Owings Mills, creating even bigger questions for an aging offensive line already trying to replace Pro Bowl left guard Ben Grubbs.
“He contacted us through a representative,” Harbaugh said. “He is dealing with an issue right now. I don’t really want to speak for him on that. Just let him speak for himself on that when the time comes.”
McKinnie has been placed on the reserve-did not report list, which opens a spot on the 90-man preseason roster but puts the 6-foot-8, 354-pound tackle’s future in doubt.
While most assume the absence is tied solely to the veteran lineman’s weight and conditioning, Harbaugh’s word choice makes you wonder if there are other factors at work with whatever “issue” McKinnie has that’s keeping him away from the training facility in Owings Mills.
When the Ravens signed him last August, they knew they were welcoming a talented tackle with plenty of baggage stemming from nine up-and-down years with the Minnesota Vikings that ended when he was jettisoned at the start of last year’s training camp. However, McKinnie was a model citizen in his first season with the Ravens and was paid a $500,000 roster bonus in March.
His financial problems became public knowledge earlier this offseason as he’s reportedly dealing with a $4.5 million lawsuit stemming from a loan he took out during last year’s lockout. McKinnie was reportedly sued for failing to repay the amount and is slated to make a $3.2 million base salary — after reaching a $1.2 million salary escalator last season — in the final year of his contract with the Ravens.
A regular Twitter user – with updates often tracking his activity late at night — McKinnie hasn’t posted anything on his account since July 22.
Attempts to reach McKinnie for comment have been unsuccessful.
When he’s expected back in Owings Mills is anyone’s guess, including that of his head coach.
“In all honesty, I really don’t know,” said Harbaugh when asked about a timetable for McKinnie’s return. “We should know more here soon.”
McKinnie’s absence puts the offensive line in an even more uncomfortable position as right tackle Michael Oher will now shift back to the left side, where he started full-time with mixed reviews in 2010. Many have wondered whether Oher has the ability to play at a high level on the left side, but the Ravens have no choice but to move the 2009 first-round pick back to his natural position for now.
“We’ve always believed Michael Oher is a left tackle here,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to put the five best linemen out there, and last year, to do that, Michael was a right tackle. I am very comfortable with Michael at left tackle. Until further notice, he is the left tackle.”
Where that leaves the Ravens at right tackle is a far less desirable question to answer.
(Updated: 9:20 a.m.)