Vikings sideline Bryant McKinnie, restructure Bernard Berrian's deal
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MANKATO, Minn. -- Fifteen players sat out Monday's opening practice of Minnesota Vikings training camp, but two immediately raised eyebrows.
Left tackle Bryant McKinnie was placed on the non-football injury (N-F/I) list with an undisclosed ailment, coach Leslie Frazier said, while receiver Bernard Berrian confirmed he has agreed to restructure his contract, making him ineligible to practice until Thursday.
Frazier declined to discuss specifics about McKinnie's situation, which arose on the same day the Vikings signed former Indianapolis Colts left tackle Charlie Johnson to what an NFL source said was a three-year contract.
But Frazier did reveal the Vikings are "working on" McKinnie's weight -- he appeared well over his listed weight of 335 pounds -- and they've "got to be able to get a little more information" before expanding on the situation publicly.
"One of the things we want to be able to do with Bryant and a couple of other guys is just take them through a period where we get them where we feel that they're ready to play for us when the season rolls around," Frazier said. "So, we're taking it slow with him and a couple of other guys."
Putting on McKinnie on the N-F/I list, rather than the camp/physically unable to perform list, is significant because it allows the team to withhold pay. He's due a $500,000 roster bonus and a $250,000 workout bonus this year in addition to his $4.9 million base salary.
McKinnie went through a rehabilitation workout during practice alongside teammate Anthony Herrera, the lone player on the camp/PUP list as he continues to recover from knee reconstruction and triceps surgery. Asked later why he didn't practice, McKinnie said, "Because I have some issues with my something. ... I just got some issues."
Last week, McKinnie posted on his Twitter account he was seeing a chiropractor to get "heat on my back, stretched and then adjusted." He has posted at least three similar tweets since last season ended, and carrying some extra weight surely would put extra stress on his 6-foot-8 frame.
McKinnie is well-known within the organization for being contentious with his weight and ballooned to at least 360 pounds by the end of last season. He admitted extra conditioning would help with whatever he's battling but said he couldn't discuss whether he actually was injured.
"He's going to be fine," Frazier said. "We've just got to go through some things and get him ready for the things that are ahead."
The Berrian situation wasn't unexpected. Coming off a highly disappointing 2010 season, Berrian had been due $4 million in 2011 salary and bonuses, with signing bonus proration and incentives that pushed his cap number to $6,258,333 in the fourth year of the six-year, $42 million contract he signed with the Vikings
Instead, Berrian said he accepted a new deal that shortened his contract by a year -- he previously was signed through 2013 -- in exchange for a likely reduction in 2011 base salary to help the Vikings get under the cap by Thursday's 3 p.m. deadline.
"I'm definitely pleased with it," Berrian said.
Berrian's contract probably would have needed to be restructured for him to stay with the Vikings beyond this season anyway. His scheduled base salaries of $6.9 million in 2012 and $7.9 million in 2013 are nearly prohibitive for an apparently declining player who will turn 31 in December.
The Vikings' new offense under coordinator Bill Musgrave seems to have had a positive impact already on the attitude of Berrian, who made clear his dissatisfaction with his role last year under Darrell Bevell and Brad Childress. He said he "really liked the system" the moment he finally received a playbook last week, shortly before the Vikings approached him about redoing his deal.
"He and I talked at length before the lockout was instituted, and you talk about his future here and my expectations for him and what he wanted to achieve to remain a Viking, and I'm convinced that he knows this is the best place for him," Frazier said.
"He knows we have some things around him, we have his best interest at heart and he has a chance to really thrive in our offense. He's gotten to know Bill now over the last 48 hours. They've talked in depth about how he's going to be used.
"Bernard is a guy who is excited about playing. I'm looking forward to watching him play this season. He's going to have a great year. I really believe that."