EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -Bryant McKinnie has come back to Minnesota a few pounds - and a few friends - lighter.
His four-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy completed, McKinnie returned to practice Thursday at left tackle for the Vikings eager to re-establish his presence on their line and make up his absence to his teammates. He also claimed a different approach to what he does and who he's with when he's out and about at night.
``I changed some phone numbers and got rid of some people I feel like weren't for me,'' McKinnie said, adding: ``Just to get rid of that, 'He likes to hang out.'''
McKinnie was charged with three misdemeanors and aggravated battery, a felony, following a February street brawl outside a Miami nightclub. Though the case is pending, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued his punishment right before the regular season began with more than just this incident in mind.
at party attended by several players during the team's bye week. Earlier that season, he was also arrested after a late-night scuffle at a gas station. Those charges were later dropped.
In the second season of a seven-year contract worth up to $48.5 million, including more than $17 million guaranteed, McKinnie has risked plenty of earning power with his off-the-field actions - not to mention his reputation and the reward of playing football for a living. Though he pointed to his high-profile status as one cause of the current charges, McKinnie acknowledged his responsibility in the matter that he has declined to discuss in detail for legal reasons.
``I put myself out there and things happen,'' McKinnie said, his first public comments since the suspension. ``I have to be held accountable for what happened. So now what I've learned is try to make better decisions. Don't put yourself in a situation like that. You know when you have your salary on the Internet and things like that, you become a target and you've just got to have a gameplan when you go out.''
condition.
``He looks to be in great shape and good spirits,'' Childress said.
The Vikings can use a one-week roster exemption before making a move to accommodate McKinnie. He said he shared time at left tackle in practice with Artis Hicks, who performed admirably with an injured elbow against four elite defensive ends during the four games McKinnie missed.
``I'm happy to see him back and see him get back on track and have a great year,'' said Hicks, who refused to answer a question about whether he was told by the coaches McKinnie would immediately recoup the starting job. Childress was noncommital when asked whether Hicks might rotate snaps at the position in Monday's game at New Orleans to cope with McKinnie's inevitable rust.
Spending the last month in the heat of Miami looks as if it helped the 6-foot-8 McKinnie, who has occasionally had trouble controlling his weight but is now at 348 pounds.
``It actually showed me how much I really like football,'' McKinnie said. ``Just being away from it for a while and watching my teammates play and sometimes watching certain things. I felt like, 'Maybe I could've done this to help.'''
He said he used a personal trainer and spent as much time as he could lifting weights, running and working on drills specific to his position.
``I actually think I might be in better shape now than when I left,'' he said, laughing.
t holds true off the field, too. McKinnie said he tries to limit his time out on the town and has become more focused on business affairs away from football, particularly a record label he is a part of.
So is he a changed man?
``Can't change overnight,'' he said, ``but I'm in the process of changing.''

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