Making the cut: Vikings' McKinnie chops his braids off

EDEN PRAIRIE — Bryant McKinnie gave himself an early 30th birthday present: A haircut.

Since his final season in college at Miami, the McKinnie has worn his hair in braids.

The style actually stemmed from a pact he made with then-teammate Ed Reed to not cut his hair until the Hurricanes lost a game that year.

Well, they won the national championship.

McKinnie kept the look and never cut his hair.

Drafted in the first round by the Vikings in 2002, the 6-foot-8, 335-pound McKinnie has been their starter at left tackle since then. He had those braids until last week's opener, chopping them off in favor of a close-cropped cut. Teammate Pat Williams took him to a barber in Minneapolis.

People occasionally asked him when he was going to cut his hair, and eventually he targeted age 30.

His birthday is next Wednesday.

"I did it a week ahead of time because you've got to train your hair to being low," McKinnie said, laughing.
Reaction, he said, has been positive. His friends and teammates like the look. His helmet felt loose last Sunday at Cleveland, but his head was a lot cooler.

"I'm not sweating as bad as I used to," he said. "I used to just start walking and start sweating. I think it was from my hair. Now I've got to keep stuff on my head because I get cool faster now."

McKinnie has found his share of off-the-field trouble; he served a four-game suspension last season for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.

He also has become more serious about business interests, including in the music industry, and he switched agents to sign with Drew Rosenhaus as part of that focus.

Add all that up, and the most important force behind his makeover was maturity.

"I'm changing a lot of things in my life, just period, so that was one thing that needed to change," McKinnie said. "To get rid of the braids and stop looking young or thuggish or whatever. I'm trying to take care of business though so I'm going to look the part."

Cornerback Cedric Griffin took the same approach to cutting his braids this spring.

"It's just a point in time where you need to let go of some old things and do some new things in your life," Griffin said.

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