MIAMI -- Greetings from (close to) the site of the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl XLIV. This is the part of my job that I really hate. This morning, I had to bid farewell to wind chills of minus-10 degrees and travel, wholly and utterly against my will, to a part of the country where the temperature is a completely uncalled for 75 degrees at the end of January.
Ick. Yuck. Get me out of hereeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!
I was dripping with sweat when I got off the plane at MIA, a convenient airport symbol for the topic of our first post of the week. Because he was Missing In Action for much of Pro Bowl week, Minnesota left tackle Bryant McKinnie became the first player I’ve ever heard of to be dismissed from the Pro Bowl.
If you follow McKinnie on Twitter (@bigmacvikings), you know he was nursing some nagging injuries toward the end of the season. You also know that he made no mention of skipping the Pro Bowl as a result, and you know that he participated in a practice earlier this week.
As well, you might know he was tweeting at, uh, odd hours with thinly veiled references to the Miami club scene. After the news broke Saturday, McKinnie tweeted that “I never said I didn’t go out” but insisted he thought his body “would start feeling better the later we got in the week.” McKinnie’s story -- and it’s all there for you to read -- is that he pulled out of the game because of injuries.
I call hogwash. Complete. Utter. Total.
A player with McKinnie’s long history of off-field transgressions, minor as they might be on a relatively individual scale, won’t get the benefit of the doubt from me. If his injury situation is as severe as suggested, then he should have been in closer contact with the NFL earlier this week.
The league didn’t want to kick him off the Pro Bowl team. It’s already fighting a publicity battle with this event. So it was important to note that McKinnie was “dismissed” and not excused. Had it been the latter, the league likely would have acted quicker to ensure a replacement in time for Sunday night’s game.
Among other transgressions, McKinnie's total disrespect for the process has left the NFC with two tackles for the game. Unless someone plays out of position, that means Jason Peters and David Diehl will have to play the entire way -- hardly what most players sign up for when they are named to the Pro Bowl.
Quite simply, it’s another embarrassing display of immaturity and disrespect from a player who has insisted he put that part of his life behind him.
It’s especially disrespectful for McKinnie, of all people, to blow off the Pro Bowl in this manner. I’ve covered him from the day he was drafted in 2002, and he’s consistently expressed the belief that his run of off-field issues has held him back from the on-field recognition he believes he deserves. So what did he do when he finally did get elected to play in the game? At the very least, he made a mockery of it by participating in only one practice and one meeting.
I’m not going to speculate on what he was doing during the time he wasn’t at practice and meetings, even if his Twitter page provides pretty good evidence. I’ll just say that, at the very least, he hung the NFL and his Pro Bowl teammates out to dry.
I’ve defended McKinnie over the years as a decent and fun-loving guy who just likes to have a good time. But eventually, perception becomes reality. McKinnie, the same player who pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in the 2005 “Love Boat” incident and who served a four-game suspension in 2008 because of a fight outside of a Miami nightclub, now has another letter in his file.
Now, let me find that air conditioning button ….