DONOVAN McNABB said yesterday he was "shocked" when the Eagles selected a quarterback with their first pick in the NFL draft, but is fine with it and even plans to help Kevin Kolb all he can. He said his rehab from knee surgery is coming along great. He said he plans to play for many years and still thinks he will retire as an Eagle.
He said it in a roller-hockey rink. In New Jersey. At the Flyers' practice facility.
The last time McNabb did a full media sit-down in Philadelphia, with an Eagles microphone in front of him and an Eagles banner behind him, was Nov. 15. That was 175 days ago, which is also known as forever in public-relations terms.
Since then, he has suffered a season-ending knee injury and undergone surgery. He tried to have one full-scale news conference in Philadelphia, only to have it abruptly canceled by coach Andy Reid. He did talk at the Super Bowl, out of Reid's clutches, and also in an offseason ESPN thing. But he had said nothing in the days since the Eagles selected a quarterback with the 36th pick of the draft, a kid named Kevin Kolb who is presumed to be the franchise's future.
Until yesterday. About 15 miles from the NovaCare Complex. In an event arranged by his personal PR guy.
McNabb's words were typically upbeat and proper, which is what you would expect after 8 years of upbeatness and propriety from this man. But what struck you most of all was the setting, and the perception of distance between him and his employer, despite the nice words.
I mean, why here? Why now?
"I think the important thing, for me, I didn't want it to carry on and be a distraction throughout minicamps," McNabb said. "I wanted to get it done now."
But why here? Did the Eagles try to prevent him from having a news conference?
"It wasn't something that I was communicating with them about, trying to set something up," McNabb said. "I felt it was kind of in my best interests to, 'Let's get this done now.' Now they can just focus in on minicamp, I can focus on my rehab and just let it go."
As for the Eagles, a source there said the club approached McNabb about doing a news conference or issuing a statement after the draft - specifically, on the day when the Daily News quoted his father, Sam, on the subject. The source said that McNabb did not turn down the request as much as he put it off.
Now, this. Here McNabb was, sitting in the roller rink that adjoins the twin sheets of ice at the Flyers' facility in Voorhees, doing a series of interviews - first Comcast SportsNet, then the Daily News, then the Inquirer, then a phone thing with WIP.
The reason, ostensibly, was to publicize a charity golf tournament on June 15 to benefit the American Diabetes Association. But this was really a chance to ask McNabb some questions that have been hanging for 6 months, and specifically since the draft.
And it was just odd. The Eagles have this big auditorium over at the NovaCare Complex, with the huge pictures of Bednarik and Van Buren and the rest on the walls. They have a minicamp this weekend. The baseball team is on a western swing, and there is no hockey and no basketball, and a big media turnout is guaranteed for whenever McNabb talks anyway.
Yet here we were, a select handful in a hockey facility.
There is perception and there is reality. The perception yesterday was clear, of a distance between McNabb and the Eagles - which really gets you to wondering about the reality, despite the happy face McNabb chose to paint.
Point-blank: You felt that doing this off-site, away from the NovaCare Complex, was just better?
"Yeah, I did. I did," McNabb said. "Because we already have enough going on right now. So, away from the site, I think, was best."
The star quarterback feels more comfortable doing his talking while sitting in the stands at a roller-hockey rink than at his workplace. This is, well, different.
Saying the right things is one thing - and McNabb certainly did. But the distance was hard not to notice.