Bryant McKinnie (Alissa Foreman/VU)
Vikings players might have been surprised by the release of left tackle Bryant McKinnie, but they know it's their job to stay in shape during the offseason. One day after the Vikings made the bold move, players reacted to the situation.
On Tuesday, the Vikings moved a mountain to clear salary-cap space by ridding themselves of Bryant McKinnie, the left tackle nicknamed “Mount McKinnie” who showed up at training camp reportedly near 400 pounds, more than 60 pounds over his listed playing weight last year and about 40 pounds more than the weight he was at the end of the 2010 season.
The bold decision to release McKinnie was surprising to some of his ex-teammates, but they were generally of one mind: It was McKinnie’s job to care about his weight and he didn’t live up to that expectation.
“No one is untouchable. We all understood, everyone as professionals, that all we had to do is come in and come in shape. Coaches really had no choice but to do what they did,” cornerback Antoine Winfield said.
“It was very disappointing. But everyone is different. We all understand that all we had to do is work out, come in at a desired weight, but I’m not the GM, I’m not the owner. I don’t make those decisions. Coach felt he had to do it, and he did it.”
No doubt the NFL lockout contributed to the extent of McKinnie’s weight gain. Coaches and employees of NFL teams weren’t allowed any contact with players, including phone calls or e-mails, during the four-month-long lockout. That led to the cancellation of team-run offseason conditioning programs at the Vikings’ Winter Park facility. Those normally starting in March or April and are followed by more than a dozen organized team activities and minicamps that typically last until mid-June.
“My philosophy: this is my job. This is my livelihood,” said defensive end Jared Allen, who normally would practice across the line from McKinnie. “You’ve got to assume the lockout is going to be done at some point, so it’s your job to stay in shape. Everybody can find a gym.”
McKinnie said at the end of last season that he planned to hire a trainer and lose weight. A YouTube video posted in February showed McKinnie getting tennis instruction from friend and tennis star Venus Williams, but those workouts didn’t appear too strenuous, certainly nothing like the workouts put on by Larry Fitzgerald, Jr. each offseason. In addition, McKinnie has the reputation of being a party player who enjoys the nightlife on South Beach and will often tweet about parties going into the morning hours.
“With so much time off, guys do different things. Some guys relax, some guys travel. Some guys like to party. But you have to be disciplined. All you have to do is go work out, stay in some kind of shape, and perform,” Winfield said.
“You can’t be mad at him. I’m sure he’s disappointed in himself. That’s kind of embarrassing. But I think he’s going to have to deal with it.”
While players preached about self-discipline, the fact that the Vikings ultimately released McKinnie instead of giving him time to work through his weight issue surprised some of his teammates.
“I don’t think really too many people saw it coming. We weren’t really sure what the story was,” said guard Steve Hutchinson, who played next to McKinnie on the left side of the line. “We knew he was not practicing, but I think the way Leslie explained it was, for him to try to go out there and try to go right now it would be endangering his health, with him being out of shape, and I think there were some cholesterol issues [McKinnie told that to TMZ after his release]. … I know when it comes to your health as far as stuff like that goes, that’s not a joking matter.”
The Vikings might have been looking to trade McKinnie, but with his weight ballooning and with a $4.9 million base salary, there obviously weren’t any takers.
“I thought they would give him a chance to lose [weight], but I guess they met with the trainers and they felt that was the only thing they could do,” Winfield said. “… Guys need to be on their jobs. They’re not untouchable. Anyone can be released at any time.”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.