Bryant McKinnie says he weighs 370, "I have a lot of motivation'
OWINGS MILLS – Towering over his teammates along the offensive line, newly-minted Baltimore Ravens left offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie remains a massive figure at roughly 370 pounds.
Signed to a two-year, $7.5 million maximum value contract that includes a potential $300,000 bonus paid out in four $75,000 increments if he makes his weight, McKinnie has set a target weight of 355 pounds.
"I play at like 355, not 335," McKinnie said with a smile prior to his first practice since joining the Ravens. "I haven't been that since college, my junior year."
Derided in NFL circles after being cut by the Minnesota Vikings after reporting to training camp at 387 pounds and being placed on the non-football injury list, McKinnie appears to have a chip on his shoulder about his conditioning.
And the hefty former Pro Bowl blocker is intent on taking out his frustrations on defensive ends this fall.
"I have a lot of motivation," said McKinnie, who chose the Ravens over the Cleveland Browns. "So, you are definitely going to see a lot of pancakes this year."
Yes, McKinnie was referring to knocking down opponents, not anything connected with breakfast food.
The Ravens immediately installed McKinnie as their starting left tackle and shifted Michael Oher back to right tackle where he was fairly successful as a rookie.
Although McKinnie, 31, is gigantic for a left tackle, he seemed to have fairly nimble feet during individual line drills.
Building up his stamina and teaching him the playbook are the primary challenges as he goes through a crash course of learning to get prepared to start the season-opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"That's my job and that's Ben Grubbs' job when he's out on the field with him," offensive line coach Andy Moeller said. "That's what we get paid to do. I feel that, just in the few days that he's been here, he will be ready to go. He's a pro.
"He's a great player. He's plenty bright enough. He just comes from a little bit of a different system, so the terminology and stuff will take a little bit of time. He will be ready to roll."
When asked what Ravens fans can expect from him, McKinnie replied: "A dominant player that is trying to be the best at his position."
After allowing 40 sacks last season, the Ravens would likely be grateful for any improvement.
The Ravens are hoping to have more of a vertical presence this season with quarterback Joe Flacco. In order to do that, though, the line will need to provide him with more time to pick out his receivers.
"Just to have another tackle, a great tackle, just anything to give Joe time, if you give Joe time in the pocket, he's going to make all the throws that you need," Oher said. "We are going to be a great team with him, and that's exactly what we needed. We always want to get better, and we want to win and get to that big game."
McKinnie has a history of off-field issues in his past, including his involvement in the infamous 'Love Boat' scandal while he was with the Vikings several years ago as well as afight outside a Miami nightclub.
He was booted from the NFC Pro Bowl squad two years ago after not showing up for practices and forfeited his $22,000 game check and had to reimburse the league for nearly $5,000 in travel reimbursement.
McKinnie has earned a reputation in league circles as someone who heartily enjoys the nightlife, but downplayed any perception of character issues surrounding him.
"I am actually more quiet and laidback than people think," McKinnie said. "It's just little things here and there that used to pop up in my past. It's nothing like that I see happening anymore. I was kind of in my younger days anyway."
McKinnie appreciates that former University of Miami players Ray Lewis and Ed Reed vouched for his character to Ravens management.
"I definitely like to hear that my guys from the ‘U' definitely have my back and are supporting me,"McKinnie said "I'm glad to be a part of this team and this organization and to actually finally team up with some guys that went to the University of Miami because I didn't my whole career. It's good to have somebody keep you competitive and everything like that. We just have a good bond with us."
McKinnie has also been reunited with six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk, a former Vikings teammate working his way back from knee surgery.
"I definitely have chemistry with Matt Birk, and we have great communication skills between us," McKinnie said. "I am used to playing with Matt Birk, so it will be like old times."
Meanwhile, Oher has accepted the position change after experiencing some struggles on the left side with penalty issues and speed rushers.
"I just like playing football," Oher said. "I am going to work hard at any position that I'm at. I'm going to work hard and be the best player that I can be at any position. We are going to be a great team with him, and that's exactly what we needed."
The Ravens are banking on McKinnie solving their left-tackle issue for this year and the immediate future.
Besides his $1 million signing bonus and $1 million base salary for this year, McKinnie's deal includes $1.5 million in incentive clauses.
And McKinnie is due a $2 million base salary in 2012, and a $500,000 roster bonus due on the fifth day of the league year. The deal also includes a $1.2 million escalator clause based on playing time.
Now, it's just a matter of getting him ready to block Steelers outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley.
"I expect him to get up to speed," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Let's just set the bar high, expect him to know everything and we'll go from there. He's a veteran. He knows the pass protection. He knows the run plays and the running. Mainly, he's got to translate the terminology and that is tough in the heat of battle."
McKinnie is also hoping to fit in well in the Ravens' locker room.
McKinnie isn't known for being outspoken as far as guiding younger players, but said he's willing to provide his knowledge to others.
"I am here to help everybody get better," McKinnie said. "I am not real vocal, but I just pull people to the side and give them tips on stuff that I have learned in my past and just try to make us better."
Oniel Cousins, Justin Harper cut from roster
OWINGS MILLS – Oniel Cousins' tenure with the Baltimore Ravens abruptly ended Saturday when the team cut the struggling offensive lineman after three seasons.
The former third-round draft pick from UTEP had entered training camp with hopes of earning a starting job.
"It's a tough business, it's a tough league," coach John Harbaugh said. "There's a lot of factors that go into it in terms of who we're bringing in right now and the mix of the young guys and the veterans. I think he got squeezed out from a numbers perspective and a salary perspective."
The Ravens also cut former seventh-round wide receiver Justin Harper as well as defensive tackle Cornell Banks, center Ryan Bartholomew, offensive tackle Brady Bond, wide receiver Rodney Bradley, linebacker Anthony Leon, tight end Jonathan Stupar and wide receiver Terrell Zachery.
Cousins began training camp as the starting right offensive tackle, but was demoted after having a terrible game against the Philadelphia Eagles to open the preseason where he was overmatched against defensive end Darryl Tapp.
Cousins started at right offensive guard against the Kansas City Chiefs, but was benched altogether and replaced by Mark LeVoir last week against the Washington Redskins.
Cousins was playing under a $1.2 million restricted tender.
Because LeVoir has played well and the Ravens expect to have him and rookie right tackle Jah Reid as top backups, there was no real defined role for Cousins.
"How many more veteran backups can you? .. It was thought through," Harbaugh said. "It gives him a chance to get out and negotiate his deal and get him with a team. Personally, I think his future is at guard and I think he can do it.
"It's going to take an opportunity where someone has a need for that guy, and he can get in there and go to work on it. I think with our situation here with Jah being here and young and bringing in Mark, it kind of squeezed him out."
Quiet and soft-spoken, Cousins was a popular player in the locker room. He was also known for his scrappiness, getting into several fights on the practice field.
"We are all going to miss him," offensive tackle Michael Oher said. "It shouldn't be a problem finding a job, but I hate that he left."
Heading into his fourth NFL season, the native of Jamaica thought he was in line for major playing time.
"I'm not just trying to be on the roster, my goal is to be the starting right tackle," said Cousins, who dealt with a noncancerous cyst on his esophagus last year that required an operation. "I know I can do it. I believe in myself. My family believes in me and I hope the coaches believe in me, too."
Harbaugh said the team plans to keep nine offensive linemen on the roster during the regular season.
"We've always kept nine, historically," Harbaugh said. "Sometimes, you look into the possibility of keeping 10. That's probably an option, but it's been our history to keep nine."
Notebook: Matt Birk makes his return, aiming for opener
Lee Evans' foot in walking boot
OWINGS MILLS Baltimore Ravens six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk practiced for the first time since having surgery on his left knee at the start of training camp, making it through without incident.
And the team is guardedly optimistic that he'll be able to start against the Pittsburgh Steelers to open the season as Birk works his way back from having his bursa sac cleaned up.
However, the Ravens acknowledged that Birk may have to play through some discomfort this season.
"Matt was a situation where we just have to see where he is," coach John Harbaugh said. "It takes a certain amount of time. First, we have to see if the surgery actually worked, if there's going to be improvement, which, that's a question mark. So, he may be battling this thing all year the same way he did last year.
"And then just seeing the way he can move the knee and then push it, and then the next day, how he comes back and recovers. Then, what he can do the next day? Obviously, we're shooting for the opener and anything else we can get would be a bonus."
Birk was upbeat following the practice.
"We'll see how it responds, but for what I did out there, I felt really good," Birk told a team employee. "I wasn't thinking about it, which is a good thing. It got loose and stayed loose, so we'll just kind of go from there. I dealt with it last year for the last couple of months, but with the surgery I think I got out in front of it a little bit.
"How it responds will dictate the course of action. I was happy with the way it went because I haven't been out there doing a lot of running around. I was pleased."
Sidelined for all three preseason games with Bryan Mattison starting in his place, Birk contemplated retirement during the offseason before being convinced to play one more year.
Now, the Ravens are hoping that Birk can solidify the middle of the offensive line.
"We're going to find out," offensive line coach Andy Moeller said. "It's more of him getting back to banging and getting around in there and ready to go. As far as making the calls and doing all those things, he is well-versed and he has been in meetings. He has stayed on top of his game, so he will be ready just to see how it feels and just to see how his knee progresses."
LEE EVANS SIDELINED: Veteran wide receiver Lee Evans' left foot is in a walking boot and he didn't practice Saturday.
The injury doesn't seem particularly serious, though.
Evans was able to stand on one leg with his left foot supporting his weight, and he did several stretching exercises.
He didn't complain of any injury following the Ravens' 34-31 win over the Washington Redskins on Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium.
Evans caught a 35-yard touchdown against Washington.
Acquired in a trade from the Buffalo Bills, Evans was brought to Baltimore to provide a deep threat opposite former Pro Bowl wide receiver Anquan Boldin.
He leads the Ravens with 128 receiving yards and caught three passes for 60 yards and a score against the Redskins.
STICKING UP FOR SMITH: In the wake of rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith dropping two passes against the Redskins an d finishing with one catch for six yards Thursday night, Harbaugh stuck up for the second-round draft pick from the University of Maryland.
Smith has only two receptions for eight yards this preseason.
"He's making progress," Harbaugh said."Everybody has their own path. Everybody's got their own issues you have to deal with. One guy, it's route-running. Another guy, it's whatever. And the catching-the-ball part of it, to me, if you start dwelling on that, then it makes it harder to do it. He can catch the ball."
Smith attributed his problems to concentration issues.
"I've been a playmaker forever," he said. "That hasn't changed. It's more trying to get in a groove and I've kind of been pressing. I've really been wanting to make a play. Everyone has been making plays around me, the whole receiving corps. I just got to be patient and let it come to me instead of pressing the issue."
The worst drop was on a third-down route where he was all by himself.
"Obviously I can catch the ball," Smith said. "I know I can catch the ball. It's just a concentration issue. I've been practicing, wanting to make a play, wanting to make an impact instead of letting it come to me. I was wide open on one of them. I've got to get back to the basics and starting feeling like myself."
Smith has also dropped passes in practices.
"He's catching the ball well, too, in practice," Harbaugh said. "He's going to be fine. Just lay off the kid and let him develop and become the player that he's going to be. It's going to happen. It's just a matter of time, and that's the variable.
"I think we coach as hard as we can to try and get them ready, and we'll just see where he's at. Whatever playing time he gets will be reflected in how far along he is. Or there might be someone better than him in the opener, but he's going to be a good player."
YANDA RETURNS: Offensive guard Marshal Yanda practiced after being plagued recently by back spasms.
The Ravens were able to roll out their top offensive line from left tackle Bryant McKinnie to left guard Ben Grubbs, Birk at center, Yanda at right guard and Michael Oher at right tackle.
"I think it feels good right now," Harbaugh said. "I think he's worked real hard and he's made great progress."
Meanwhile, wide receiver James Hardy (hamstring) was able to practice for the first time in weeks.
Cornerback Chris Carr (hamstring) practiced and seems to be over the injury to his left leg.
TAYLOR THE BACKUP?: The Ravens aren't opposed to having rookie Tyrod Taylor back up Joe Flacco.
They could go in that direction and carry just two quarterbacks on the roster since third quarterback Hunter Cantwell remains eligible for the practice squad.
"I would be confident that he would go in there and play well," Harbaugh aid. "I'm never comfortable. I'm not comfortable with any of it. I think he can be the backup quarterback. Is he going to be the backup quarterback? We shall see."
READY FOR IRENE: The Ravens feel ready for the arrival of Hurricane Irene.
Their indoor practice facility is constructed to handle 90 mile per hour winds, according to vice president of operations Bob Eller.
The Ravens also purchased an extra generator for the indoor practice facility in case of a power outage, standby lights for emergency outlets, extra flashlights and battery-lit candles for the cafeteria.
The Ravens also opened roof drains to prevent water from piling up and secured umbrellas and furniture outside their training complex.
QUICK HITS: Harbaugh praised undrafted wide receiver LaQuan Williams, a former Maryland player who had a 38-yard punt return against the Redskins.
"He's given us a good look, LaQuan has done a nice job," Harbaugh said.
Williams still needs to continue to improve on special teams, though.
"I think he will, but I also think he's not there yet," Harbaugh said. "The fact that we haven't been able to cover kicks in our preseason games is a problem, and it means that he's not there yet as a kickoff cover guy and he's not there yet as a gunner. So, he's got a lot of work to do in that area, too. So, he's a work in progress."
The Ravens are still waiting to see what undrafted rookie outside linebacker-defensive end Michael McAdoo can do after he recently joined the team after going undrafted in the supplemental draft.
Ruled ineligible last year due to academic violations, McAdoo hasn't played football in a long time.
"It's impossible for him to come in and contribute in any way," Harbaugh said. "He hasn't played football in two years. He's just a young kid. They say he's talented, so we'll just kind of look at him and see how he does. I say that's a flyer right now. It'll be fun to see how it works out."
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