Sat Jan 30 08:10pm EST
When the NFL puts as much importance in Pro Bowl attendance as it has for this year's Miami pre-Super Bowl event, one wonders what it would actually take to be not only excused from the proceedings, but to get booted out of the whole thing altogether. Well, if you're curious, you can ask Minnesota Vikings left tackle Bryant McKinnie(notes), because he'd know. According to the Associated Press, McKinnie was kicked off the NFC Pro Bowl roster after missing practices on Friday and Saturday with unexcused absences. According to his own Twitter account, McKinnie, who had been nursing minor injuries through the end of the regular season and into the playoffs, managed to get himself together enough to engage in only one meeting this week, though he was much more reliable when taking on the highlights of the Miami club scene. It's now heavily speculated that those extracurricular activities were the driving force behind McKinnie's absences, leaving him off the team and subject to any number of fines.
The problem is not so much that McKinnie's in trouble with the league -- he's had run-ins before, though he's not what anyone would call a career criminal. And he's in the fourth year of a seven-year, $48.5 million contract extension, so any fine the league chooses to dole out will run right off his back. Where McKinnie's really getting nailed is from his former Pro Bowl teammates. With him out of the picture, the NFC has only two other offensive tackles -- Philadelphia's Jason Peters(notes) and David Diehl(notes) of the New York Giants. Had he not been kicked off the team, McKinnie may have been too unprepared to play even in the NFC's simplified schemes, according to line coach Hudson Houck. And Diehl, whose responsibilities will now increase beyond what any player should have to deal with in a glorified exhibition, was incredulous at the whole thing.
"I can't speak for him," Diehl told Mark Craig of the Star-Tribune. "All I can speak for is me. I was here for everything. I was prepared and I'm ready to go. I'll be ready to go tomorrow night."
Let's just call it like it is. First of all, McKinnie never should have been voted to the Pro Bowl in the first place. He was an average lineman at best this year, finding himself benched against the Carolina Panthers on December 21 for giving up sacks and pressures without letup. The Vikings got to the NFC Championship despite their line, and everybody knows it. For McKinnie to take an award he doesn't deserve and throw it away is one thing -- but to throw his teammates under the bus and put an already undermanned roster under more pressure is absolutely inexcusable. Diehl is the professional in this scenario, and he's now the one who will be playing more, and possibly subjecting himself to injury. McKinnie needs to figure it out -- and fast. The Pro Bowl may be a joke to him (and many others), but leaving your fellow football players in the lurch is hardly humor fodder.
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