Bryant McKinnie, Miami Dolphins’ focus: Beat out the Baltimore Ravens

Bryant McKinnie is trying to help the Dolphins snag the AFC’s last playoff spot over the Ravens, the team he helped win a Super Bowl last season.

12/14/2013 12:01 AM

12/14/2013 12:04 AM

When Bryant McKinnie got to his phone after the Dolphins' wild win over Pittsburgh Sunday, there was a text message from an old friend awaiting him.

Ravens running back Ray Rice, who as of two months ago was McKinnie's teammate, had an urgent question.

"Did you win?" Rice asked.

McKinnie's response: "Yes, we won. We'll make it hard for y'all. As long as I'm still here, I'm going to make it hard."

Has he ever.

The race for the AFC's sixth and final playoff spot is now essentially down to two teams. And it's put the massive left tackle squarely between the team he helped make a champion a year ago and the team he hopes will win the next one.

McKinnie played a large role in the Ravens' Super Bowl run last year. Before the playoffs began, the year-long backup was inserted into the starting lineup and helped shore up a once-leaky offensive line.

The Ravens allowed just six sacks in four postseason games, giving Joe Flacco ample time to throw.

Now, either by causation or coincidence, the same thing has happened in Miami. The Dolphins' pass protection was a train wreck through the season's first six games, allowing a league-high 26 sacks.

That prompted Jeff Ireland to send a late-round pick to Baltimore for McKinnie, who has started every game since.

And while McKinnie hasn't been great, he's been good enough to help at least slow the pass-rushing tidal wave. In the seven games since the trade, the Dolphins have surrendered 22 quarterback sacks -- still not great, but a 27 percent improvement over what they were without him.

"He's picked up the system well, number one. He's fit into the locker room well, number two, and he’s made a good contribution on the field," said Dolphins coach Joe Philbin. "He's done a good job."

"I haven't got the full concept of each play," countered McKinnie, who has allowed four sacks in his seven games as a Dolphin. "I know general enough. I basically know who I need to block."

He's blocked well enough to help the Dolphins (7-6) win four of their last six games and become a coin flip to make their first postseason since 2008. But if they do so, it'll come at the expense of the Ravens, who have the same record but are ahead in tiebreakers.

That has led to a lot of Sunday scoreboard watching and -- in the case of Rice -- texting. McKinnie knows his old team has a tougher remaining schedule -- the Ravens play three division leaders to finish the season -- and stated the obvious this week: "I would like to make it over them."

Still, he insists there are no hard feelings toward a team that benched and then ultimately traded him.

The way he explains it, McKinnie wanted to be traded to the Dolphins after his demotion, and the Ravens accommodated his request.

"[Ravens] general manager [Ozzie Newsome] came to me and said, 'I understand where you want to go. Bare with me for two weeks and we'll try to get this thing done and make it happen,'" McKinnie recalled this week.

There were other teams interested in McKinnie, but he only wanted to go to Miami, the town where he attended college and where he lives in the offseason.

McKinnie added: "The conversation that we had, it was like, 'I was a trooper last year. I hung in here, helped us get a Super Bowl. Can you at least respect my wish?' And [Newsome] was professional about it. It happened."

Now that he's finally here in his 12th NFL season, McKinnie doesn't want to leave. While some questioned if he could handle the Miami nightlife if the infamous night owl lived here full-time, McKinnie has stayed out of trouble as a Dolphin.

His contract expires at the end of this season, and while he hasn't yet had any talks with the front office about a new deal, he hopes one happens.

Another playoff push would strengthen his case.

"There's another notch that you have, and you have to turn it up when you get to the end and to the playoffs," McKinnie said. "Once I get in the playoffs, I look at it as, 'I don't know if we're going to win or lose, so I'm going to give it everything I've got. And if we win, I'll give you everything I've got again because you never know when it's going to be over.'"

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