"I think he's a good player, and he's a real tough guy. Bryant understands our goals. He's one of the few guys you could plug in and block Freeney. He's very valuable to what we're trying to accomplish."
McKinnie said it no longer bothers him when people call him names, and he's heard it all on Twitter and jeers from the stands.
"I'm thick-skinned, I know I can't change some people's minds," McKinnie said. "I just live my life."
McKinnie said he's resolving his financial problems after previously defaulting on a $4.5 million loan that caused his wages to be garnished this season.
"Everything is cleaning up and falling into place," McKinnie said. "It's going in the right direction, and I'm sticking to that strategy."
Besides his weight loss and upgraded play, teammates have taken notice of how McKinnie handled a difficult situation when he was benched. He never complained.
"Bryant could have made a scene, but he stayed humble and patient," offensive guard Bobbie Williams said. "He's been truly unselfish. Now that he's better conditioned, I was like, 'Wow, he's really moving out there.' I'm proud of him."
Birk joked that McKinnie should be feeling good since he only operated in a substitute capacity in jumbo packages until last week.
"It's the freshest I've been since college," McKinnie said. "I don't have any wear and tear, so I can play very physical. I'm having fun out there."