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Whatever weight the 10-year veteran plays at, the hope is that McKinnie can anchor an offensive line that has been in an almost constant state of flux during the preseason.
Center Matt Birk has missed the first three preseason games after undergoing surgery on his left knee. Right guard Marshal Yanda has sat out the last two contests due to back spasms. And the team has tested Oniel Cousins and rookie Jah Reid at right tackle.
Those changes could be minimized if McKinnie, 31, can revert to the player who — at his peak — powered the Minnesota Vikings' ground game, helping that team to six of the top eight rushing seasons in franchise history.
McKinnie said he thinks it won't take much time for him to develop a chemistry with the rest of his linemates.
"It'll probably take a few days, three or four days just to get the communication together and playing with my new guard [Ben Grubbs] and everything," McKinnie said. "From there, we'll just progress."
While the coaching staff understands that there will be a period of transition for McKinnie, there's also an expectation that he will make an immediate impact on the front five.
"I expect him to get up to speed in practice today," coach John Harbaugh said prior to Saturday's session. "Just set the bar high, expect him to know everything, and then work from there. He's a veteran. He knows pass protection, he knows the run plays. He's got to translate the techniques a little bit, but mainly, he's got to translate the terminology, and that is tougher in the heat of battle like checks or changes that happen on the line, the cadence, all of those things that are quick, split-second things and that he's not used to hearing. That is probably the part that will take the longest. It'll actually have to happen in games or as much of the high-speed drills as we can do between now and actually playing."
The regular-season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 11 is just two weeks away, which means that McKinnie might have to take a crash course in the offensive playbook and blocking schemes.
The dwindling amount of practice time for McKinnie to demonstrate what he's learned is somewhat of a concern, offensive line coach Andy Moeller conceded.
"Well, yeah. And that's my job and Ben Grubbs' job when he's out on the field with him, and that's what we get paid to do," Moeller said. "I feel that just in the few days that he's been here, he'll be ready to go. He's a pro. He's a great player. He's plenty bright enough. Just comes from a little bit different of a system. So the terminology and stuff will take a little bit of time, but he'll be ready to roll."
McKinnie stood on the sideline during the Ravens' 34-31 win against the Washington Redskins Thursday night, and from his vantage point, he saw a unit with potential.
"I think they did a good job," he said. "They're young. So there's some things that I can come in as a veteran and try to help coach and fix from a technical standpoint. But I feel like it's a young group, and I'm here to help everybody get better."
McKinnie has had a history of off-field troubles, but he said those incidents are behind him.
"I'm actually more quiet and laid back than people think," he said. "Just little things here and there that used to pop up in my face, but nothing like that I see happening any more. That was kind of in my younger days."
Both Harbaugh and Moeller said inserting the first offensive line in the preseason finale against the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night is an option, but it's not a certainty. McKinnie assured Ravens fans that he has a lot to play for.
"A dominant player," McKinnie said when asked what fans could expect from him. "One that's trying to be the best at his position. … I have a lot of motivation. So you're definitely going to see a lot of pancakes this year."
End zone: Center Matt Birk returned to practice on Saturday, his first since undergoing surgery on his left knee and an encouraging sign that the team could field its first-team offensive line in time for the regular-season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 11. Prior to Birk's appearance at practice, Harbaugh acknowledged some uncertainty surrounding Birk's status. "First of all, we're going to have to see if the surgery actually worked, if there's going to be improvement," he said. "That's a question mark, so he may be battling this thing all year just like he did last year. And then just how well he can move the knee and then push it, and then the next day, how he comes back and recovers and then what he can do the next day. Obviously, we're shooting for the opener there, and anything we get before then would be a bonus." … Two days after catching three passes for 60 yards and one touchdown, wide receiver Lee Evans sat out practice and wore a protective boot on his left foot. Evans leads the team with 128 receiving yards in just two preseason contests. … With the return of Birk, the projected starting offensive line of McKinnie, left guard Ben Grubbs, right guard Marshal Yanda and Oher took an active role in practice. … Cornerback Chris Carr (left hamstring) and wide receiver James Hardy (hamstring) — both of whom did not play Thursday night — practiced. … While elaborating on the organization's decision to waive Cousins, Harbaugh suggested that Cousins, a former UTEP standout who was selected in the third round in 2008, might be better suited at guard. "I think personally his future is at guard, and I think he can do it," Harbaugh said. "But it's going to take a little bit of an opportunity where somebody has a need for that guy, and he can go to work on it." … Teams have to trim their roster to 80 players by Tuesday; the Ravens got down to 81 Saturday by waiving nine players, including veteran practice squad receiver Justin Harper. The others were: offensive tackle Brady Bond and tight end Jonathan Stupar along with five undrafted rookies: center Ryan Bartholomew (Syracuse), defensive tackle Cornell Banks (Fresno State), linebacker Anthony Leon (Arkansas), wide receiver Rodney Bradley (Hawaii) and wide receiver Terrell Zachery (Auburn).