A year ago, when Bryant McKinnie’s name was in the news, it wasn’t for good reasons.
McKinnie sat out the Ravens’ final mini-camp last summer and reported late to training camp after suffering a non-football related back injury. He then needed multiple tries to pass the team’s conditioning test. McKinnie proceeded to not start any of the Ravens’ regular season games before regaining his job for the team’s Super Bowl run.
Notorious for conditioning issues the last couple of years, McKinnie appears intent on shedding that reputation after re-upping for two more seasons with Baltimore.
The 33-year-old has been a regular participant in the team’s offseason training, was at last week’s mandatory mini-camp and has set a pretty lofty goal for himself after a difficult 2012.
“This time last year, I didn’t even participate, so, yeah, I definitely feel a lot better in mini-camp,” McKinnie said, adding that he feels far more stable this offseason. “You just have a lot going on mentally, but right now I’m more focused so I can have a good year and be the best left tackle in the league.”
How will outsiders measure that, though?
“When people turn on film, they’ll just see that I’m dominating, and I just feel that I’m going to do better than everybody else this year,” McKinnie said. “I feel pretty good now, so just give me a couple more reps.”
At times last season, it seemed certain that McKinnie would be elsewhere this year. The 6-foot-8 tackle didn’t thrust himself back into the Ravens’ plans until starting all four postseason games during the championship run, helping the offense average 410.3 yards of offense in the playoffs.
McKinnie said there was a point after the draft that he thought he wouldn’t be back with the Ravens. He visited the Dolphins and Chargers before deciding to return to Baltimore.
“I always wanted to give the Ravens an option to match whatever other teams offered,” he said. “So I would tell my agent to check back to see what the Ravens have going on and we’ll decide from there.”
So now McKinnie is back on an offensive line that has all but retired center Matt Birk returning. And McKinnie approaches training camp feeling far better than a year ago.
“Physically, I feel like I’m 26, so that’s a good thing,” he said. “I feel really good this year. I’m moving around pretty well, so I’m pretty happy with that.”
Coach John Harbaugh sees a player who can pick right up where he left off last postseason.
“He moved really well in this camp, as well as he moved at the end of the year last year when he started practicing so well and playing so well,” Harbaugh said. “He looks healthy, and he will continue to work on his conditioning. That’s always for all of us, that’s always a year-round, life-round proposition. He seems to be very committed. Love the way he’s playing and his effort.”