|Michael Oher says a move to left tackle would be 'no big deal.' (US Presswire)|
OWINGS MILLS, MD -- Bryant McKinnie's days with the Baltimore Ravens appear numbered. Their starting left tackle since 2011, McKinnie, who has battled weight, motivation and work ethic issues throughout his career, remained absent for the second straight day and could be let go at any point, according to team sources.
McKinnie currently has no agent, and a chiropractor called the team on his behalf Thursday to say the player was in pain and would not show up to the start of camp, coach John Harbaugh said. Beyond that the Ravens know nothing -- whether or not the chiropractor is reputable, how serious any problem may be, and he is incurring fines of $30,000 a day in the process.
"He's basically MIA, that's what I'd call it," one team official said. "We're moving on without him."
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The Ravens are in no rush to cut him, as they already picked up his roster bonus, they're paying him nothing now, and they own his rights. But given his weight issues, the trio of young offensive linemen the Ravens want to audition at tackle, and McKinnie's continued odd behavior, even if he reported he could have a hard time making the team, sources said.
For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, and that already had issues along the offensive line, this is hardly the dream opening of camp. But both Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome took it in stride, showing no scorn or frustration regarding the McKinnie situation and focusing on their youngsters. It will take an improved performance from the line -- that began to wilt in the playoffs -- for Baltimore to get back to the AFC Championship Game, and there are also questions about whether 13- Year veteran Bobbie Williams can replace star Ben Grubbs at left guard and whether Matt Birk can hold up at center after years of knee issues.
Now, Michael Oher, a former first-round pick who has switched between left and right tackle, is back on the blind side in McKinnie's spot. The Ravens reached the playoffs with Oher on the left side, but he has struggled in pass protection and with penalties, faring better to this point on the right. They will be able to run better to the left now -- McKinnie was hefty and limited there -- but can Oher pass protect to the level McKinnie did in 2011, particularly against archrival Pittsburgh? Harbaugh told me that youngsters Kelechi Osemele, Jah Reid and Ramon Harewood would compete for the right tackle spot, and take the bulk of their reps there (some of them have practiced at guard in the past).
"We drafted these guys pretty high and we think they can play for us now," Harbaugh said. "They've all had some injury issues, so we just need to get them on the field and see it there. We like what we have here."
The Ravens will not move stud right guard Marshal Yanda to tackle, team sources said, though he has pinch-hit well there in the past. They are also in no hurry to add a veteran tackle. If one gets cut in the next few weeks who makes sense, so be it, but they don't want to take any reps away from the kids right now ... not that all of them are on the field.
Osemele, a second-round pick in 2012, was drafted with right guard in mind, with Grubbs gone to New Orleans for big bucks, but he worked in a limited role with the starters at right tackle Friday: the Ravens are being careful with him coming off back problems. Reid, a third-round pick in 2011, projects as a strong run blocker, but has been banged up and is likely out a few weeks with his latest calf injury. Harewood, from tiny Morehouse, went 194th overall in 2010 but the Ravens love his size (6-6) and ability and expect him back from an ankle injury this weekend.
The Ravens believe they have a starter here, and want to get more youthful and mobile as well. "It's a young man's game," Harbaugh said.
Oher said he is fine with switching back to the left side -- "It's really no big deal," he said -- and took many reps there in the offseason anyway with McKinnie rarely around. Oher said he has spoken to McKinnie a few times and told him to take his time coming back. "I think so," Oher said when asked if he thought McKinnie would report. "He sounded positive."
But this clock has long been ticking, with the Ravens tiring of the veteran's ways, and in this case, time may have already run out.
- Joe Flacco was very sharp for the second straight day and the quarterback may be primed for a breakthrough year. He hit a 40-yard touchdown to tight end Ed Dickson and completed balls to all quadrants of the field. In the meantime negotiations between his agent, Joe Linta, and the team continue regularly with the dialogue very positive. No deal is imminent, but talks are ongoing
- Sergio Kindle, who nearly died in a fall after being taken in the second round in 2011, and suffered serious head injuries, is making strides. There is a sense he might be able to make the team and add something as a situational pass rusher. He had sacks on consecutive plays Friday and is grasping things better now, coaches said, and seems to be maturing off field, too
- Young kicker Justin Tucker has yet to miss a kick, including a 57-yarder Friday. Incumbent Billy Cundiff struggled some last year and missed a kick to send the championship game to overtime in New England
- Ed Reed, who has been limited early in camp in the past, is full go and looks energetic and engaged
- There is a growing buzz around second-year linebacker Chavis Williams (from Newsome's beloved Alabama), who fits in the speedy mold on linebackers the Ravens are prizing with more teams spreading the field with fast and huge tight ends. Paul Kruger, a situational pass rusher who came on in 2011, could be used more in coverage as well this season, flashing speed and coverage skills, too
- The Ravens welcomed the children of those in military service, as well as the Wounded Warriors, to camp.