New Ravens tackle McKinnie takes part in first practice

August 27, 2011 | Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — New offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie is still a mountain of a man, but he looked trimmer than the reported 400-pounder who was released earlier this month by the Minnesota Vikings.

McKinnie took part in his first practice with the Ravens on Saturday, working as the starting left tackle with Michael Oher moving over to the right side as expected. The 31-year-old said he is down to 370 pounds and plans to move down to 355 during the regular season.

Showing good foot work and an ample belly in the portion of practice open to the media, the question becomes how quickly McKinnie can get into football shape and comfortable in offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s system.

“Luckily, I have been around for a little of this [system],” McKinnie said. “When I was with [former Vikings coach Mike] Tice, the offense was kind of similar, so it is kind of easier for me to get acclimated.”

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McKinnie will lean on left guard Ben Grubbs to get him up to speed in terms of communication at the line of scrimmage in what will be a work in progress heading into the final preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night.

“It will probably take me a few days — about three or four days — just to get the communication together,” McKinnie said. “Playing with my new guard and everything. From there, we will just progress and get better.”

McKinnie’s conditioning will remain a concern with the regular season opener just over two weeks away. No long faced with the benefit of playing his home games in the climate-controlled dome in Minnesota, the hot September weather of Baltimore could be an issue for the new left tackle.

When faced with questions regarding his character concerns and off-field issues earlier in his career, McKinnie was gracious in his answers, describing himself as quiet and laid-back and insisting he’s matured since his younger days in the NFL.

Still, McKinnie has plenty of doubters to prove wrong with his abrupt departure after nine seasons with the Vikings. Weight and health concerns will continue to exist until the big tackle proves he can hold up over a 60-minute game that matters.

“I have a lot of motivation, so you are definitely going to see a lot of pancakes this year.”

For the Ravens’ sake, hopefully he’s only referring to blocks.

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