ATLANTA Ravens tackle Bryant McKinnie has been a first-team player in the NFL from the day he was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in 2002.
Of his 148 career appearances, 147 have been starts and the outlier came a decade ago in his rookie season. Since then, he has started 140 straight regular-season games.
Thus it felt strange, to say the least, when he found himself on the bench for the Ravens first four offensive series in their preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons Thursday night in the Georgia Dome.
Sitting there trying to stay in the game and stay warm (after warming up), that was a little different, McKinnie said with a smile in the locker room after the Ravens 31-17 victory. Someone asked me when was the last time I didnt start, and I was like, I dont know, this might be the first time.
After watching the first quarter, McKinnie made it onto the field and played left tackle during the second and third quarters.
I was able to get a lot of reps in the no-huddle. That lets me know where I am, and I felt good, he said.
His health and conditioning have been major issues, but competing mostly against rookies and backups Thursday night, he appeared to move well and handle his assignments easily. Asked if he felt he was effective, he said, I was. I definitely had some aggression I wanted to release. Ive only had one day of practice in pads.
McKinnie is penciled in as the Ravens starting blind-side tackle but is playing catch-up after reporting late to training camp, reportedly because of a back injury suffered in a fall at his home in Florida. The Ravens have since patched together a Plan B offensive line with Michael Oher in McKinnies left-tackle spot and rookie Kelechi Osemele on the right side, but it is assumed McKinnie will regain his job in the end as long as he is healthy, in shape and effective. Oher would then switch back to the right side.
Oher and Osemele started Thursday night, but the line struggled early, as quarterback Joe Flacco was sacked twice.
McKinnie, meanwhile, looked solid, albeit against backups.
I have more confidence in my abilities this year, he said. Compared to last year, I just feel a lot better this year.