The Ravens were hoping Bryant McKinnie would show up for the start of training camp slimmed down and in better shape.
Instead, the troubled left tackle didn’t show up at all and it’s unclear when or if he will. Given little choice, the Ravens placed McKinnie on the reserve/did not report list after he didn’t show up for Thursday’s first full-squad practice of training camp.
His absence cast his future with the Ravens very much in doubt and added even more questions for an offensive line that is in flux as camp opens.
“He contacted us through a representative. He’s dealing with an issue right now,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “I don’t really want to speak for him on that. I’ll just let him speak for himself on that when the time comes.”
Asked if McKinnie’s absence could be a long-term issue, Harbaugh said, “In all honesty, I really don’t know. We should know more here soon.”
However, Harbaugh did not sound like a coach expecting an imminent return. He said Michael Oher, who started every game at right tackle last season, is the left tackle “until further notice,” and there will be a training camp competition at right tackle.
“My point is we have to find a right tackle,” Harbaugh said.
McKinnie and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata were the only two unexpected non-participants in Thursday’s official start of training camp, which played out in front of a couple of hundred fans at the Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills and in stifling temperatures that hovered around 100 degrees.
Ngata, who talked during the mid-June mandatory minicamp about playing at a higher weight this season after he felt like he wore down last year, tweaked his hamstring and was unable to pass the team’s conditioning test. He was subsequently placed on the physically unable to perform list and will likely be out a little while.
“We’re going to take it slow and make sure he’s OK,” Harbaugh said.
While Ngata’s readiness is obviously worth monitoring closely, especially given the long-term injury sustained by the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs, the Ravens’ chief concern remains the offensive line, which was already a question mark before McKinnie’s absence and several potential fill-ins went down with injuries.
With Oher at left tackle, Ramon Harewood, who spent the past two seasons on injured reserve because of knee problems, spent the early part of Thursday’s practice with the first-team offensive line but he rolled his ankle and exited early. It’s unclear how long it will keep him out.
Guard/tackle Kelechi Osemele, the second-round pick in April who could emerge as the favorite for the starting right tackle job if he is healthy, is on the physically unable to perform list because of muscle spasms in his back. However, Harbaugh said he is hopeful Osemele will return to practice Friday. Second-year tackle Jah Reid also remains sidelined and on the PUP list with a right calf strain.
At different points of Thursday’s workout, undrafted free agent Jack Cornell and Cord Howard, who the Ravens signed just 24 hours earlier and hadn’t played in an NFL game since 2010, were working with the first-team that also included Pro Bowl performer Marshal Yanda at right guard, Matt Birk at center, Bobbie Williams at left guard and Oher at left tackle protecting quarterback Joe Flacco’s blindside.
“I have a ton of confidence in Michael. Michael is getting better and better,” said Flacco who was pretty sharp in the first practice. “He’s a great athlete, a lot of power. He’s one of those guys that has been in the offense for a couple of years now and I think he’s really starting to come into his own.”
Oher did struggle in 2010 when he played on the left side, but Harbaugh said the team has always believed that the former first-round pick is a good left tackle.
“Just for the record, we’ve always believed Michael Oher is a left tackle here,” Harbaugh said. “We were going to put the five best linemen out there last year and to do that, Michael was at right tackle. I’m very comfortable with Michael at left tackle. Until further notice, he’s the left tackle.”
After being cut by the Minnesota Vikings largely because of weight problems, McKinnie, who the Ravens’ media guide lists at 6-foot-8 and 354 pounds, signed with the Ravens a little more than two weeks before last season’s opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He wound up starting every game for the Ravens last season and mostly held up, though he did struggle at times in run blocking.
When the Ravens met with McKinnie and picked up his $500,000 roster bonus in March, they made it clear he needed to get in better shape. They then held him out of the mandatory minicamp in mid-June to allow him to work on his conditioning and get down to the targeted weight of 345 pounds.
That was just one more worry for McKinnie, who was also hit with a $4.5 million lawsuit this offseason for allegedly failing to repay a loan that he took out last year.
However, it’s unclear whether legal issues, or even conditioning issues, fueled Thursday’s absence. Normally active on his Twitter page, McKinnie hasn’t posted anything since Sunday.
“Bryant is on the roster and we need to get him here,” Flacco said. “He’s a good player. We need to get him running the plays and get him ready for the season, get him in football shape and make our decisions from there.”
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