The strange saga of Baltimore Ravens veteran offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie took another awkward turn Thursday as the defending AFC North champions launched training camp.
McKinnie, 32, is absent due to an undisclosed personal issue and was officially placed on the reserve/did not report list, a situation sure to try the Ravens' patience and potentially endanger his roster spot if it drags out too long.
"Well, he contacted us through a representative," coach John Harbaugh said. "He's dealing with an issue right now. I don't really want to speak for him on that, just let him speak for himself on that when the time comes."
Although the situation could be resolved in a few days by McKinnie showing up at team headquarters, it's unclear when or if he's going to do so.
McKinnie is dealing with multiple lawsuits stemming from a $4.5 million loan taken during the NFL lockout last year as well as other growing debts incurred to agents, creditors, mortgage companies and car dealerships.
McKinnie has had multiple agents and financial advisors this offseason and no agent is currently listed for him with the NFL Players Association. He's in the process of hiring new representation.
McKinnie didn't return text messages seeking comment. He usually communicates on a regular basis on his Twitter account, but hasn't posted anything since July 22.
McKinnie was paid a $500,000 roster bonus in March after pledging to general manager Ozzie Newsome that he would get in better shape. He started every game at left tackle last season after the Ravens signed him to a two-year contract that includes a $3.2 million base salary this year.
However, McKinnie was held out of a mandatory minicamp in June due to lingering conditioning issues and was told by Harbaugh to get down to a target weight of 345 pounds to be allowed to practice at camp. McKinnie was cut by the Minnesota Vikings last summer when
When asked if he knew when McKinnie might report, Harbaugh acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding the former Pro Bowl blocker.
"In all honesty, I really don't know," Harbaugh said. "We should know more here soon."
McKinnie told the Times this summer that he intended to silence his critics. Instead, he's given them more ammunition.
"I'm going to show up at the weight I'm supposed to be and handle my business and get everybody off my back," McKinnie said. "I want to get this work done, come in at the right weight and shut everybody up. I'm only nine pounds away.
"I'm getting in shape. I'm lower now in my weight than any time last year. I think people got the wrong idea about why I wasn't out there last week."
The Ravens' level of concern about the left tackle spot and their first mini-crisis of the season is alleviated some by the presence of Michael Oher.
A former first-round draft pick who has started every game of his career, Oher started at left tackle two seasons ago before shifting back to right tackle last season.
"With our situation, Michael Oher is the left tackle," Harbaugh said. "Just for the record, we've always believed Michael Oher is a left tackle here. We're going to put the five best linemen out there.
"And last year to do that, Michael was a right tackle. I'm very comfortable with Michael at left tackle. Until further notice, he's the left tackle."
Oher seemed to find his niche last season on the right side playing next to Pro Bowl offensive guard Marshal Yanda.
At 6-foot-4, 315 pounds, Oher is strong, mobile and plays with intensity. However, he was prone to penalties on the left side and botched a few key assignments.
"I have a ton of confidence in Michael," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "Michael is getting better and better. He is a great athlete, a lot of power, but he is one of those guys that has been in the offense a couple of years now. I think he is really starting to come into his own. So, I have a ton of confidence in him."
The Ravens had undrafted rookie free agent Jack Cornell line up with the first-team offense at right tackle Thursday after Ramon Harewood sprained his ankle and didn't return.
Plus, rookie second-round draft pick Kelechi Osemele is sidelined with back spasms and former third-round tackle Jah Reid is out with a strained calf.
"My point is we need to find a right tackle," Harbaugh said. "There will be heated competition for that spot."
Although McKinnie's life has been filled with disorder lately, he's still supported by his teammates.
"I think it's important to have our whole team here," Flacco said. "Bryant is on the roster, and we need to get him here. He's a good player and we need to get him here, get him running the plays and get him ready for the season, get him in football shape and make our decision from there."
Notebook: Ngata injures hamstring, placed on PUP list
OWINGS MILLS -- Baltimore Ravens All-Pro defensive tackle Haloti Ngata injured his hamstring during a mandatory conditioning test and placed on the active physically unable to perform list.
Ngata was sidelined for the first full-team practice of training camp, but was at the Ravens' training complex working out and rehabbing his leg.
It's unclear when Ngata will be back on the field.
"Haloti tweaked his hamstring a little bit," coach John Harbaugh said. "We're going to take it slow and make sure he's OK."
Ngata was noticeably heavier at a mandatory minicamp in June, bulking up to 345 pounds.
Last season, Ngata got down to 335 pounds and recorded 65 tackles, five sacks, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries after being signed to a five-year, $61 million contract that included a $25 million signing bonus and a $10 million option bonus.
Following a dominant start to the season, Ngata wore down as he dealt with a deep thigh bruise.
"I had a couple of problems, but I just didn't feel probably just as powerful at the end of the season as what I usually feel," Ngata said in June. "I just didn't feel that strong. So, I think a little bit this year I'm going to probably try to get up on the weight a little bit just to help me with some of that power. I think being a little bit lighter kind of made me lose some of that power."
A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Ngata has recorded 393 career tackles, 17 sacks, three interceptions, four forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries.
He lost 20 pounds prior to last season to try to upgrade his stamina.
"I still feel the same," Ngata said. "That's the thing, though. I felt more, not as winded, but I'm so used to playing at this weight anyway. So, it shouldn't be a problem."
Besides Ngata, offensive tackle Ramon Harewood turned his ankle and didn't return.
The following players remain on the physically unable to perform list: rookie offensive guard-tackle Kelechi Osemele (back spasms),defensive end Pernell McPhee (minor knee surgery), wide receiver David Reed (anterior cruciate ligament surgery) and offensive guard-tackle Jah Reid (strained right calf).
Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (partially torn Achilles tendon) is on the physically unable to perform list.
Harbaugh predicted that Osemele could be activated as soon as today and indicated Reid may be out a few more practices.
Practicing in muggy conditions, starting wide receiver Torrey Smith briefly dealt with leg cramps before returning to drills.
"Torrey is a guy with a very low-percentage of body fat," Harbaugh said. "So, the cramping is always going to be an issue for him."
WILLIAMS IN SHAPE: Veteran offensive guard Bobbie Williams reported nearly 15 pounds lighter than minicamp when he was listed at 6-foot-4, 345 pounds.
Now, the former Cincinnati Bengals starter is down to 331 pounds.
"I can't carry it as you get up there in age," Williams said. "I'm trying to play my best football."
Signed to a two-year, $2.9 million contract in June that includes an $800,000 signing bonus, Williams drew praise from Harbaugh for his upgraded conditioning.
"Bobbie has done a great job," Harbaugh said. "He passed the conditioning test with flying colors. He looks to be in very good shape. He looks good."
Following a quiet season last year where he was used sparingly after missing his entire rookie season with a fractured skull suffered during a fall down two flights of stairs, outside linebacker Sergio Kindle is competing for an increased role.
A former second-round draft pick, Kindle is one of the pass rushers the Ravens are hoping to get contributions from after NFL Defensive Player of the Year outside linebacker Terrell Suggs tore his Achilles tendon in April.
Kindle seems to have regained his confidence after displaying rust a year ago.
"He's understanding the game better," inside linebacker Jameel McClain said. "It's really coming to him, so that's what I really see out of Sergio. And now you can see him running around out there, doing things more freely.
"When you're younger, the game is so fast because you never really catch on to it. You can see that it's slowing down for Sergio, and we'll definitely, I believe, we'll be seeing a lot of Sergio. I'm a fan."
The Ravens signed former New York Jets wide receiver Logan Payne and cut undrafted rookie free agent fullback Jamison Berryhill.
Payne was sidelined last season with the Jets, going on injured reserve due to a wrist injury that required surgery.
Payne, 27, played for the Seattle Seahawks four years ago.
The 6-foot-2, 203-pounder started twice and hauled in three catches for 39 yards before being placed on injured reserve with a knee injury, a torn medial collateral ligament.
Payne is known as a sure-handed wide receiver.
The Florida native went undrafted out of the University of Minnesota where he caught 97 passes for 1,344 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Payne has practice squad stints with the Seahawks, Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs and the Minnesota Vikings.
Incumbent kicker Billy Cundiff and rookie challenger Justin Tucker both made every field goal attempt.
Tucker connected on 5 of 5 attempts while Cundiff made all four of his tries.
A former Pro Bowl selection who missed a rushed chip shot in the AFC championship game that would have sent the game into overtime, Cundiff is the prohibitive favorite to retain his job.
Newly-signed linebacker Ricky Brown intercepted quarterback Curtis Painter's errant throw. Painter was also intercepted by veteran safety Sean Considine, fifth-round rookie cornerback Asa Jackson and undrafted rookie safety Omar Brown and veteran safety Sean Considine. ... Paul Kruger lined up at Suggs' rush outside linebacker spot while rookie Courtney Upshaw was at strongside linebacker, Jarret Johnson's old position.
"Courtney looked good," McClain said. "He's a great player. We can all see that within him. He's strong as an ox. The real challenge for everybody comes when the pads come on. That's where we know when it's gut-check time, but I've got a strong feeling that Courtney is going to be even better with pads on."
Quarterback Joe Flacco said he hasn't been losing sleep even with son Stephen Vincent Flacco six weeks old.
"My wife's been doing a great job," he said. "I've been sleeping unless he's crying too long. If I do happen to wake up, I try not to let anyone know. I'm not doing any diaper-changing, so I don't have to be nervous about anything that he does besides keeping him healthy, keeping him safe, making sure he's progressing. He's doing well right now. I can't complain. When I'm home with my wife and he's around, I'm useless. I have nothing he wants. If he's crying: 'Hey, hon, here you go. If she wants a couple of minutes by herself, I take him out to the car because that's usually where he falls asleep."
John Harbaugh on first day of practice: 'This is a good start'
OWINGS MILLS -- The lobbed throw from Joe Flacco arrived too late, a mistimed spiral that never reached its target.
Instead of connecting with wide receiver Anquan Boldin along the sideline, the Baltimore Ravens' quarterback was intercepted by $50 million shutdown cornerback Lardarius Webb.
And Webb streaked in the other direction for the first unofficial touchdown of the season as the reigning AFC North champions opened training camp Thursday afternoon.
In sweltering weather conditions that nearly reached the century mark for temperature, the defense applied most of the heat as they intercepted several passes.
"This is a good start," coach John Harbaugh said. "Obviously, we've got the perfect weather for training camp. The guys did a great job. Our team is in shape. It was a fast-paced practice. Obviously, we have a lot of rough edges to grind of right now, but I'm real pleased for the first day.
"I thought the secondary was really sharp. Obviously, they made a lot of plays, a lot of plays in the red zone, a number of interceptions. The secondary, the whole defense, pass defense-wise, looked really good."
Flacco eventually exacted some revenge, beating Webb on a deep throw to newcomer wide receiver Jacoby Jones.
And wide receiver LaQuan Williams had the most acrobatic catch of the day, twisting his body and leaping into the air to secure a Flacco pass thrown slightly behind him.
Flacco passed for 3,610 yards, 20 touchdowns and a dozen interceptions last season, almost leading the Ravens to a Super Bowl berth if not for a dropped pass in the end zone by former third wide receiver Lee Evans.
"It was fun, it was a good day," said Flacco, who's in negotiations with the Ravens for a long-term deal as he enters the final year of his rookie contract. "Our receivers are probably dying right now and they would tell you the opposite. It was a hot one, and we got a lot of good work in."
Overall, though, it was a day where the defense made a bit of a statement.
Ranked third in the NFL in total defense a year ago, the Ravens' defense played like they're collectively determined to make up for the loss of NFL Defensive Player of the Year outside linebacker Terrell Suggs to a partially torn Achilles tendon.
Replacing Suggs' 14 sacks and seven forced fumbles will be an arduous task.
The Ravens have installed Paul Kruger at Suggs' rush outside linebacker spot with rookie second-round draft pick Courtney Upshaw assuming gritty veteran Jarret Johnson's vacated strongside linebacker position.
"Everybody knows that the next man has to step up," inside linebacker Jameel McClain said. "Terrell Suggs is a big void to fill. Everybody knows that. Fortunately, we have some great young guys that are ready to go out there and put in a lot of work. We've got a lot of guys that are ready and understand what it takes to play on this defense. So when we lose one, everybody else steps up to a whole other level and that's what everybody's focused on."
The Ravens are banking on Kruger thriving as a full-time player after he recorded 5 1/2 sacks as a situational pass rusher last season
Now, the former second-round draft pick from Utah is taking on a much larger role.
"Being an every-down guy, the responsibility that goes with that, you've got to understand the whole game plan," Harbaugh said. "You've got to know the defense, you've got to know the base package and all elements of the sub package.
"Before, he was more of a part-time player, just had to know part of the package. I don't think he'll have a problem with the run. He's a very physical guy. The mental part of it, he's worked hard at it. He looks good."
Upshaw didn't look lost in pass coverage and was aggressive in pursuit.
The 6-foot-2, 272-pounder is trying to get lighter after failing the Ravens' conditioning test and briefly being placed on the non-football injury list before passing the timed running intervals on the second try.
Upshaw is the Ravens' top draft pick from Alabama and was a consensus All-American for the Crimson Tide who registered 9 1/2 sacks last season.
"You do talk about expectations a little bit, but really they are just trying to swim right now, keep their head above water," Harbaugh said. "He is just trying to make sure he doesn't lower the standard, because he is learning. It's all new for him. The pace of play is new. The defense, obviously, the volume is new. So, I don't think you have to talk about it too much. It's pretty self-evident."
Meanwhile, the offense is trying to upgrade its output after ranking 12th in scoring last season with a 23.6 average per contest.
Flacco took exception with the suggestion that the offense wasn't doing enough to complement its defensive colleagues.
"As far as I'm concerned, we shouldn't be holding back because of our defense," Flacco said. "That's kind of bogus, if you ask me. If that's what we are doing, then we have a problem. So, we won't look at it any differently. We have to go out there and try to score points. That's the biggest thing. I think we are getting better.
"We are getting more athletic and more skilled and we are doing a lot of things on the offensive side of the ball just in terms of personnel. When we get out here, we are working on them in terms of getting better and getting to that point where we can be an explosive offense and score a lot of points."
After reaching the AFC championship game in two of the past four seasons since Harbaugh's arrival and making the playoffs each year and being the only NFL team to win at least one playoff game during that span, the Ravens have grown tired of nearly reaching the pinnacle.
"Get over the hump, get to the next level, that stuff is just a cliché," Harbaugh said. "Yeah, we're starting from scratch. We're going to build a keel to this ship. We're going to sink the pilings deep. We're going to make that rock solid foundation built on bedrock. Those are principles. That's where it starts.
"So, we have to get back to that place. You want to talk about 22 seconds left in the AFC championship game, that's fine. We have to get back to 22 seconds left in the AFC championship game first, and before that, we have to have a great preseason. What we're really interested in is a really great practice tomorrow. That's what's important now. That's what we need to take care of."
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