Vikings' camp ends like it started; still no McKinnie

Associated Press

MANKATO, Minn. -- At least one thing hasn't changed since the Vikings arrived at training camp two and a half weeks ago.

No Bryant McKinnie.

The No. 7 draft pick's holdout created a mess on and off the field during camp, which ended Wednesday. The offensive line has been shuffled repeatedly, and this week the players' union accused the Vikings of colluding with the Kansas City Chiefs, who haven't signed the player they took just ahead of McKinnie.

McKinnie, a 6-foot-8, 344-pounder projected as the starter before camp, was supposed to help protect Daunte Culpepper and rejuvenate the running game.


But contract talks have been dormant since McKinnie's agents turned down the club's "final" offer almost two weeks ago, and the Vikings are trying to move on.

"We're worried about the guys that are here, not about the guys that aren't," center Matt Birk said.

Without McKinnie, head coach Mike Tice and offensive line coach Steve Loney have shifted their personnel. Lewis Kelly, originally slated to start at right tackle, has assumed the left tackle spot. Chris Liwienski shifted from left guard to right tackle for the second straight season, and Everett Lindsay and Corbin Lacina have shared time at left guard.

Tice toyed with moving Birk to left tackle before keeping him at center, where he was a Pro Bowler last year. Birk was one of a few players who tried calling McKinnie at his Florida home during camp.

"He didn't call me back," Birk said. "I just wanted to see where he was at and make him realize some things. I support every player, the chance or right to get as much money as he can. But I just wanted to make sure he wasn't getting bad advice."

Ben Dogra, one of McKinnie's agents, said the two sides are at an impasse because the Vikings aren't willing to provide fairness.

"The Vikings want to play by their rules," he said. "The number one thing here is to get a fair market deal."

Dogra also said the Vikings are offering less than what the No. 8 pick, safety Roy Williams of the Dallas Cowboys, received. He declined to discuss specific numbers.


On Tuesday, the Vikings were informed that the NFL Players Association was seeking information on whether the team worked in collusion with Kansas City in their negotiations with McKinnie and Ryan Sims, the Chiefs' top draft pick.

Rob Brzezinski, vice president of football operations for the Vikings, called the accusations ridiculous, saying the team has offered McKinnie a fair contract.

McKinnie still would have the chance to work his way into the starting lineup once he signs. But it'll be tough playing catch-up and trying to fit in as a teammate.

"Put it this way, 32 practices, probably average two hours a practice, that's 64 hours of work he's missed," Birk said.

Loney said: "There'll be an adjustment time. This group is a cohesive group and a close group, and he's going to have to work into that."

All agree that how warm a reception McKinnie gets will depend on the attitude he brings to practice.

"Personally, I think he seems like a good kid," Lacina said.

But, "to come in late and not be a part of what we went through here at camp is missing out."


As for Kelly, he says he's just thankful for the chance to fill McKinnie's shoes for now.

"I don't let it affect me. I know that when he gets here that I have a role to play, and if they tell me to step back, then I've got to step back."

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