McKinnie's 'strange journey' ends in Super Bowl

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McKinnie's 'strange journey' ends in Super Bowl

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Bryant McKinnie stood in the middle of the Superdome and marveled at the spectacle that surrounded him.

Behind the Baltimore Ravens giant left tackle, several of the team's most notable stars were seated individually at raised tables. Each space featured huge name plates and was surrounded by a blockade designed to keep the throng of interviewers at a reasonable distance. It was, after all, media day at the Super Bowl.

McKinnie looked over his shoulder in amusement. His assignment Tuesday was to simply to stand among the masses and field questions from people who crowded in with microphones held high to catch a few words from the 6-foot-8, 354-pounder.

Those who kept their arms raised long enough to hear McKinnie tell the story of his season were rewarded with quite a tale, one that began with a pay cut and ended with a starting role in his first NFL championship game.

``It's been a long, strange journey, but I like the way it's ending so far,'' McKinnie said. ``One step farther, I can complete it with a ring.''

Before starting his 11th training camp in the NFL, McKinnie was asked to accept less money because the Ravens needed to clear some salary-cap space. After a good bit of grumbling, he was OK with an incentive-laden contract.

But McKinnie's run of 60 straight starts ended in the opener, when coach John Harbaugh opted to start Michael Oher at left tackle and use McKinnie solely as a backup.

In his unaccustomed role off the bench, McKinnie hurt his hip in a game against Dallas on Oct. 14. When right tackle Kelechi Osemele got hurt the following week in Houston, McKinnie got the chance to steal away a starting spot. But he aggravated his hip injury and ended up back on the bench. One week after another went by without the opportunity to start.

Finally, before the season finale against Cincinnati, McKinnie was told by Harbaugh to prove he was healthy.

``The coach was like, `Show me that you're healed. Show me that you can move,''' McKinnie recalled. ``In the Cincinnati game, he said, `I'm going to let you play, show me you're back healthy.'''

McKinnie came off the bench and played well. In that game, left guard Jah Reid hurt his toe and was subsequently placed on injured reserve. So, in the playoff opener against Indianapolis, the Ravens put McKinnie back at his old left tackle spot, moved Oher to right tackle and plugged Osemele into Reid's spot.

It proved to be a winning combination. Now 3-0 with McKinnie as a starter, the Ravens look to complete their run Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.

``This is a great reward,'' McKinnie said. ``I waited for my time and was able to step in there and help the team go to where it wants to be.''

Funny how things work in the NFL.

``What's Bryant been through can't be overstated,'' Ravens center Matt Birk said. ``All year, to sit and wait and wait. To his credit, he kept himself ready, kept himself in shape. He kept himself mentally ready to go. He didn't play all year, and here's (Indianapolis end) Dwight Freeney. The next week, here's (Denver's) Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller. The man's done a great job. It's a tribute to his attitude and work ethic.''

Maybe it's because of Reid's toe, or perhaps it was just McKinnie's time. Whatever the reason, Baltimore's offensive front is better than it's been all season.

``McKinnie has played well for them, and it had a domino effect,'' San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. ``They put Oher at right tackle, who's playing right tackle better than the guy they had in there. They moved (Osemele) to left guard and he's playing that position better than the guy they had in there.''

The 33-year-old McKinnie, meanwhile, is feeling the benefit of limited playing time from September through December.

``I'm fresher than anybody else,'' he said.

His task in the Super Bowl will be to help neutralize 49ers right tackle Justin Smith, a 12-year veteran playing with a partially torn left triceps.

``McKinnie has been a good player in this league for a long time,'' Smith said. ``I think the run they've been on, he's out there playing real good football. The mix of their offensive line right now is really working for them. They're playing the best football when they need it.''

Ravens CB Jimmy Smith having surgery to remove screws from foot

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Ravens CB Jimmy Smith having surgery to remove screws from foot

Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith is scheduled to have surgery this weekend to have screws removed from the right foot he injured in 2014, according to the Baltimore Sun, and confirmed by CSN. The Ravens hope Smith will be ready for the start of training camp in late July, and the expected timetable for recovery is four to six weeks.

Smith was never 100 percent last season, but played through pain and discomfort, after suffering his Lisfranc injury in November of 2014.

“It’s definitely a difficult injury, kind of more than I expected,” Smith said earlier this month at the start of the Ravens’ offseason training program. “It’s very…you can live with it, you can play with it. Obviously, I played with it last year – not at the level that I expected myself to – but I think I’ll be better this year.”

The Ravens were already in the market for cornerbacks, and that will not change when the draft resumes Friday night. Despite re-signing Shareece Wright and getting Kyle Arrington to restructure his contract, the starting cornerback spot opposite Smith is open, and the Ravens need more depth there, especially with Lardarius Webb moving from corner to safety.

 

 

Will Ravens use extra picks to make trades in NFL Draft rounds 2 and 3?

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Will Ravens use extra picks to make trades in NFL Draft rounds 2 and 3?

With eight picks remaining in the draft, including the fifth pick in the second round (No. 36 overall), the Ravens are just getting started making moves. Here are three reasons why the Ravens might make a trade Friday night during round 2 or round 3:

1. The Ravens need to strengthen their chances of getting a quality pass rusher or corner.

If the Ravens want a corner or pass rusher who can step in and contribute next season, it’s getting late. Before the draft, Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said he felt more pressure thinking about the second-round pick (No. 36) than he did the first round. The Ravens won’t sit around and wait if they sense all the players they covet slipping away. Don’t be surprised to see the Ravens trade up in either Round 2 or 3 to target a player they want. Corners still on the board include Mackensie Alexander of Clemson, Kendall Fuller of Virginia Tech, Xavien Howard of Baylor, and Cyrus Jones of Alabama. Pass rushers on the board include Kamalei Correa of Boise St. and Noah Spence of Eastern Kentucky. The third round could be too late to get any of those players.

2. The chance to get UCLA inside linebacker Myles Jack makes the start of Round 2 even more fluid.

Jack is a first-round talent who is only available due to concerns about his knee. Many teams, including the Ravens, could be thinking about picking Jack, or trading up to get him.

3. If the Ravens keep all of their picks, all nine players are unlikely to make the team.

The Ravens already have a crowded roster at several positions, including running back and tight end. They will also bring in more free agents once the draft is over. It makes sense to trade a pick or two, in exchange for a player who helps them next season.

Five potential Ravens targets in the second round of the NFL Draft

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Five potential Ravens targets in the second round of the NFL Draft

The Ravens will be on the clock early again on Friday night, scheduled to pick fifth in the second round, at No.  36 overall. After taking Notre Dame tackle Ronnie Stanley with their first pick at No. 6 overall, the Ravens could turn to the defense in the second round, and there is a lot of defensive talent still on the board.

Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said on Thursday night that the Ravens expect to get a first-round talent with their second pick.

"We love the top 36 players in this draft," DeCosta said. "So we're going to get an outstanding player. ... We're very, very confident that at 36 we're going to get a guy that we feel like is a first-round type talent."

So who might that be? Here, in alphabetical order, are a few candidates that could be in play when the Ravens are on the clock:

CB Mackensie Alexander, Clemson

The Ravens couldn't trade up for Jalen Ramsey, so they remain in the market for cornerback help. Alexander has shutdown capabilities though there are concerns about his height (5-10) matching up with elite receivers on the outside. Ravens assistant GM Eric DeCosta predicted a run on cornerbacks between picks 25 and 40, and Alexander figures in that equation.

OLB Kamalei Correa, Boise State

An early entry to the draft, Correa had 12 sacks as a sophomore at Boise State and then seven this past season. Correa (6-3, 243) has played defensive end and linebacker but is considered best suited as an edge rusher in a 3-4 defense.

CB Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech

Kendall is about to become the fourth Fuller brother to be drafted, and he could find his way back to his hometown Ravens. A knee injury early last season knocked Fuller out of the first round, but he's a first-round talent when healthy and would be a nice fit for the Ravens.  

LB Myles Jack, UCLA

Wait a minute, he's still around? Yes, Jack had been mentioned as a Ravens first-round pick in many mock drafts, but concerns about his knee -- which he exacerbated by mentioning the possibility of microfracture surgery -- sent him tumbling down draft boards. Still, he's a potential top-10 talent who is still available.

DE Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky

Spence is the type of edge rusher the Ravens have said they covet. He had eight sacks as a sophomore at Ohio State. But off-the-field issues remain his biggest question mark; he was booted from Ohio State because of failed drug tests and tried to boost his draft stock by transferring to Eastern Kentucky, where he recorded 11 1/2 sacks last year.