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Updated: August 3rd, 2011 1:05pm
Winfield: 'Coaches really had no choice' but to cut Bryant McKinnie

Winfield: 'Coaches really had no choice' but to cut Bryant McKinnie

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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MANKATO, Minn. -- Antoine Winfield says he isn't angry at longtime teammate Bryant McKinnie for eating his way off the Minnesota Vikings roster, nor the decision-makers who released the veteran left tackle on Tuesday.

"We all understood, everyone as professionals, that all we had to do is come in and come in shape," Winfield said after Wednesday's morning practice. "Coaches really had no choice but to do what they did."

McKinnie reportedly weighed at least 390 pounds -- 55 pounds over his listed playing weight of 335, and 30 pounds more than he weighed at the end of last season -- and had high cholesterol when he arrived in Mankato.

The Vikings failed McKinnie on his physical, placed him on the non-football injury list and cut him after two days when they could find a trade partner.

"No, you can't be mad at him," said Winfield, who had played with McKinnie since 2004. "I'm sure he's disappointed in himself. I mean, that's kind of embarrassing, but he's going to have to deal with it."

Several players declined to speak about McKinnie's release on Wednesday, deferring questions to coach Leslie Frazier. Those who did speak -- even players such as receiver Percy Harvin, who called McKinnie "a great friend" -- roundly indicated they understood the move.

"Coach Frazier made it very clear that he was focused on the guys that were here and the guys that were ready to play football," Harvin said. "We're focused on the guys here, the 53 that are going to make this team and we're going to run with what we've got."

McKinnie went through rehabilitation workouts on Monday and Tuesday while his teammates practiced. He appeared visibly annoyed on Tuesday as photographers documented his physique.

"I don't think really too many people saw it coming," left guard Steve Hutchinson said. "We weren't really sure what the story was. We knew he was not practicing, but I think the way Leslie explained it was, for him to try to go out there and try to go right now it would be endangering his health, with him being out of shape and I think there were some cholesterol issues.

"I'm not a doctor. I can't really speculate on all that. But I know when it comes to your health as far as stuff like that goes, that's not a joking matter."

Patrick Brown replaced Thomas Welch at left tackle with the first-team offense on Wednesday, and Charlie Johnson -- the former Indianapolis Colt signed to a three-year deal on Monday -- is expected to take over that spot on Thursday.

Handed McKinnie's old No. 74 hours after the move was made, Johnson said he had no idea the starting job would open up when he signed.

"They've kind of said, come (Thursday), I'm going to be thrown out in the fire a little bit," Johnson said. "I've had the three days to go over the playbook and stuff. When (Thursday) comes, it's trial by fire. I'm excited. I'm looking forward to it. It's a new experience, but something you have to be excited about."

The evolution of the roster over the past week has left some players in the dark about who's on the team. Winfield, among others, didn't know who Johnson was when asked about him by reporters on Wednesday.

The one thing everyone knows is McKinnie won't be back.

"With so much time off, guys do different things," Winfield said. "Some guys relax, some guys travel, some guys like to party, but you have to be disciplined. All you have to do is go work out, stay in some kind of shape and come in here and perform."

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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