McKinnie hopes to avoid punishment

Offensive tackle returns to spring practice for Vikings

By Dave Campbell

AP Sports Writer

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Bryant McKinnie is back with the Vikings, hoping he won’t have to leave.

After attending a court hearing in Florida the day before, McKinnie joined his teammates on Wednesday for an offseason workout — one of the voluntary-but-expected spring practices known around the NFL as "organized team activities."


At the end, McKinnie was huffing and puffing during an exhaustive series of sprints that left most of the Vikings visibly winded.

"I got a good run in after practice, so I’m feeling good, ready to jump back into things," he said.

Minnesota’s starting left tackle for the last 87 games, dating to the middle of his rookie season, McKinnie has pleaded not guilty to charges — one felony and three misdemeanors — stemming from a fight outside a Miami nightclub in February.

Speaking publicly for the first time since his arrest, McKinnie declined to discuss his legal situation but said the last three months have been a "learning experience" for him.

He was asked if he was confident he wouldn’t have to miss any more time with the Vikings, this spring, summer or in the fall.

"I wouldn’t make any speculations, but I’m hoping to be able to play with the team," McKinnie said.

McKinnie’s attorney, Larry Kerr, is trying to get his client in a pretrial diversion program that would dismiss the charges if McKinnie fulfills certain requirements. Otherwise, his next hearing is scheduled for June 20.

Regardless of what happens in the Miami-Dade County Court system, McKinnie might be in trouble with the league office because of past off-the-field behavior. Most notably, he was fined one game check for his role in a rowdy boat party with several teammates in 2005. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct in that incident.


McKinnie is expected to be summoned this summer to meet with commissioner Roger Goodell, who could suspend him for a game or two or more.

Vikings coach Brad Childress has also punished several players for various transgressions. In March, Childress refused to pass judgment on McKinnie, but said this: "We could face some difficult decisions down the road."

Asked this week whether he’s concerned about losing McKinnie to a suspension, Childress said: "I’m really not. I’m really more focused on the guys that are here. I’m aware of that, what’s going on, but I’m more focused on the guys that we’re trying to get better here — whether they’re rookies or they’re 10-year vets."

Though McKinnie has had an up and down career and not bloomed into the consistently dominant Pro Bowl-type player the Vikings envisioned when they made him the seventh pick in the 2002 draft, his absence would be a big blow — even for just one game.

Artis Hicks has played left tackle before, but he lost his starting job at right guard to Anthony Herrera last season. Chase Johnson, who has never appeared in an NFL game, is also getting time at the position.

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