Between frequently facing concerns about his weight and conditioning, reporting late for training camp after saying he hurt his lower back in a fall at his South Florida home, grading out poorly as a run blocker and facing multiple lawsuits from creditors, McKinnie experienced a year filled with nightmares.
If McKinnie hadn't accepted a $1 million pay cut that slashed his base salary from $3.2 million to $2.2 million six days before the season opener, he would have been cut from the roster.
Then, the 6-foot-8, 354-pound offensive lineman didn't start a single regular-season game for the first time in his career as
"It was a pretty harsh, tough year," McKinnie said. "I should come out with a music album called, 'Misunderstood.' I really don't know all of the reasons why I was in the doghouse, but it's over with now."
Now, the 11-year veteran has escaped from the doghouse just in time for the playoffs.
Starting at left tackle during the Ravens'
"Yeah, Bryant looked really good last week,"
Heading into Saturday's AFC divisional-round matchup against the top-seeded
McKinnie will match up against Pro Bowl defensive end
"It's a good feeling to be able to help your team out," said McKinnie, who earned the second-highest grade on the entire offense from Pro Football Focus for his performance against Freeney. "I'm just happy. It's all working out in the end. I'm bouncing back. I'm back starting, and I feel like I'm playing well. It's not like this is too big for me. I've been here before."
For McKinnie, it was a relatively complicated journey from sitting on the bench to getting back in the good graces of the organization.
He had to
The toe injury that sidelined Ravens left guard
Behind the scenes, McKinnie had a meeting with Harbaugh a few weeks ago to discuss what he needed to do become a starter again.
"Coach Harbaugh wanted to see more from me in practice," McKinnie said. "I explained to him that, being on the scout team, I didn't want to wear out guys like
Although McKinnie displayed obvious rust when he played 73 of 89 offensive snaps and allowed a sack in the Ravens' 23-17 loss to the
It was part of a concerted effort to get the best five blockers on the field. The change worked as the Ravens allowed just one sack against the Colts.
"The fact that Bryant McKinnie could step in there and play as well as he did, he's been practicing so well the last two or three weeks," Harbaugh said. "You could just tell he was getting healthy, and it was time for him to play."
Soft-spoken and quiet, McKinnie resides in a talkative corner of the Ravens' locker room. He's flanked by Lewis, running back
"I'm a chill, laid-back guy, " said McKinnie, an avid tennis enthusiast who's friends with Serena and
He inflicted damage to his own reputation, though.
McKinnie, who was cut by the
"I think Bryant is misunderstood," said six-time Pro Bowl center
"I think he's a good player, and he's a real tough guy. Bryant understands our goals. He's one of the few guys you could plug in and block Freeney. He's very valuable to what we're trying to accomplish."
McKinnie said it no longer bothers him when people call him names, and he's heard it all on Twitter and jeers from the stands.
"I'm thick-skinned, I know I can't change some people's minds," McKinnie said. "I just live my life."
McKinnie said he's resolving his financial problems after previously defaulting on a $4.5 million loan that caused his wages to be garnished this season.
"Everything is cleaning up and falling into place," McKinnie said. "It's going in the right direction, and I'm sticking to that strategy."
Besides his weight loss and upgraded play, teammates have taken notice of how McKinnie handled a difficult situation when he was benched. He never complained.
"Bryant could have made a scene, but he stayed humble and patient," offensive guard
Birk joked that McKinnie should be feeling good since he only operated in a substitute capacity in jumbo packages until last week.
"It's the freshest I've been since college," McKinnie said. "I don't have any wear and tear, so I can play very physical. I'm having fun out there."