McKinnie Ready For Big Time?

The Vikings aren't mincing words on their expectations for second-year OT Bryant McKinnie. Long story short, it smells like "Pro Bowl or Bust."

Not that there's any pressure, but Bryant McKinnie is going to get the bar raised this year. A couple of questions were placed to VU staff this weekend that warrant scrutiny.

Not once but twice, VU was asked by national writers – preparing pieces for preseason NFL publications – to respond to the same half-quote. Both times, by writers with no ties that we know of, we were asked to respond to "insider" quotes that McKinnie is "near Pro Bowl level."

In both instances, we responded that McKinnie was extremely impressive considering he didn't show up until late October. However, we find the mutual comment a bit disturbing. Yes, the Vikings should have confidence in McKinnie. To say he's very close to Pro Bowl level is putting an onus on him he may not be able to meet. They've already – by their own admission – ruined one defensive player's confidence (perhaps forever) by tagging him with lofty expectations. The same is manifesting itself with McKinnie.

Should McKinnie be an All-Pro? Yes. VU had him rated far ahead of Mike Williams of the Bills. But, McKinnie was hamstrung last year and "Yary-esque" expectations are a bit much to ask. Whether the comments in the August magazines mask the Vikes line on McKinnie or VU's caveat are yet to be seen. But, unless the Vikes go 12-4, McKinnie won't be a Pro Bowler this year – regardless of merit. The best he can hope for is to get recognized and honored in 2004.

Welcome to NFL reality. If "insiders" want to spout homer rhetoric, that's cool. That is their job. We deal with the facts. McKinnie will be recognized – eventually – if he shuts down enough veterans. Until then, he'll find out what many solid NFL players have learned – the Pro Bowl is a beauty contest – pure and simple.

* A Twin Cites sports columnist took the first official shot at Michael Bennett for not discussing the St. Paul shooting at his vehicle. If Bennett ever speaks on the subject publicly – his reservations are understandable to us, if not to those too far removed from "Life-Circa 2003" – he will speak to VU. He already knows that there aren't a lot of places where his words will speak instead of spin to a preconceived storyline.
* Through two developmental camps, one question keeps popping up – where will Kevin Williams see the majority of time? The current plan is to have him as a nickel tackle in pass situations and backing up Kenny Mixon at DE. Although that is the official line, the Vikings know that many observers – even a couple from within – thought a NT like Jimmy Kennedy was the best option at the Vikes' pick (7 or 9 depending on your release). Look for Williams to get a lot more time on the interior than outside.
* VU wishes all the best to the family of William "Arky" Vaughn – a longtime Vikings fan being laid to rest today. Rest in peace.

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