BETHLEHEM, Pa. - As is habitually the case, if you want to take away anything substantive from an Andy Reid news conference, the key is paying more attention to what he does not say than to what he does say.

The Eagles' head coach didn't bring up anything about dogfighting yesterday. There was no need to address a federal indictment, banishment from training camp, or the tenuous circumstances of having to head into this season without his star quarterback, either.

If you are a fan, of course, this should elicit a sigh of relief in this day and time. But the fact that Reid couldn't help but praise everything about Donovan McNabb, while reminding us all of the unwavering faith he has in his quarterback, might very well lead fans to expect too much.

Another NFL season is about to start, and Eagles fans are hoping for more than what they received last season.

Yet again!

That is the way it will go today with McNabb. He will take the field. A contingent of fans, media and Eagles personnel will be watching closely, hoping he has recovered from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Praying he will be ready for opening day. Knowing that if he is not ... well, we don't even need to go there today.

"I'm not coming into [camp] thinking Donovan is going to get hurt this season," Reid said. "That's not what I'm looking at. I'm looking at Donovan having a great season. Like I said before, he was on an MVP pace last year. I expect him to pick that up and go right through the season that way and stay healthy the whole season."

It's good somebody feels that way.

There are still questions about McNabb's durability.

He was on pace to compete for league MVP honors, ranking second in passing yards (2,534) and passing touchdowns (17) and sixth in quarterback rating (96.6) through the first nine games of 2006, before he got hurt against Tennessee. Evidently, unlike Michael Vick, he is a stellar citizen with a beautiful upbringing who is a paragon of virtue in today's sports world.

Outside Philadelphia, this is a beautiful thing, of course. It's touching to have someone our youth can look up to without parents covering their eyes. Back here, though, there are more pressing concerns, such as whether the Eagles will play some run defense this season, how Kevin Curtis will help offset the loss of Donté Stallworth - and whether McNabb will be helping him do so, or watching.

"Expectations are high," Reid continued, after informing the media that he would have no comment this season about the legal issues involving his two sons and that he would "appreciate it if you [the media] held up your end and don't go there."

But back to the expectations. "I know it's that way among the fans, but even more so with this football team . . . and that's good," Reid said. "They worked their tail off in the minicamps. We've had as many players as we ever have this off-season working, and they're ready to go."

That sounds good. But it doesn't matter without McNabb, regardless of what anyone says. Bet your money on A.J. Feeley, Kevin Kolb and Kelly Holcomb if you must, just don't expect anything beyond a divisional playoff berth. Or being called the latest sucker in town.

It's karma, baby! This is what happens when you invest so much monetarily and emotionally in one individual: You ride with him or you die with him. Such is the Eagles' situation.

McNabb is a five-time Pro Bowler, one of only seven players in NFL history to amass 20,000 passing yards and 2,500 rushing yards. He's Mr. Squeaky-Clean, the reason Mama (Wilma) McNabb is seen in all those Campbell's Chunky Soup commercials. But McNabb is also the man who ended 2006 after just nine games with an ACL injury, one season after ending 2005 with a sports hernia, who has failed to finish that 16-game marathon in three of the last five regular seasons.

"We'll keep a close eye on him and just see how he does," Reid said.

Good. Because there is a bright side to this: At least we're watching McNabb for all the right reasons.