After missing the last two games with thumb and ankle injuries, Donovan McNabb is expected to practice tomorrow, Andy Reid said yesterday. Barring a setback, it looks like McNabb will be ready to play when the Eagles host the New York Giants in a must-win game Sunday.
McNabb's return can't come soon enough.
The Eagles have lost two straight games with A.J. Feeley as the starting quarterback, both by less than a touchdown and both after Feeley ended the Eagles' hopes by throwing interceptions. In 10-plus quarters of work since McNabb came out of the Miami game, Feeley has thrown eight interceptions, including four against the Seahawks. McNabb had thrown six in 10 games, although he had four in his last three games.
Amazingly, even after losing to Seattle on Sunday, the Eagles have a decent shot of grabbing the last wild-card spot in the playoffs. By winning at Chicago, the Giants improved to 8-4, the best record in the conference among those teams not leading their division. Eight teams are either 6-6 or 5-7. That last spot is truly up for grabs, and it's conceivable that 8-8 or even 7-9 will be good enough to get into the postseason.
Not that Reid wanted to discuss that possibility yesterday. He wanted the players, whom he made come in to watch the film and have a team meeting yesterday, to stay focused on the task at hand - the Giants - and not on any playoff possibilities.
"We still have an opportunity here to win some football games with four games left and put ourselves in a nice position here for postseason play," Reid said. "It's important, however, that we focus in on the Giants. I know a lot will be said about the wild-card position and all that. It's important for our football team and our coaches to focus in on the one-game-at-a-time approach, and that we get some of these guys back healthy here and ready to play. That's where our emphasis will be."
On the injury front, Reid said cornerback Lito Sheppard, who left the Seahawks game in the third quarter, has inflammation in his oft-injured left knee. He struggled throughout the game, and couldn't pinpoint when he aggravated the injury. Reid said he pulled him out of the game because it was apparent Sheppard couldn't get the job done.
Also, defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley had an MRI exam on his left knee yesterday. He missed the Seattle game with a sprained medial collateral ligament, an injury he suffered late in the loss to New England. He said Bunkley will be "OK" but didn't provide any more details.
Safety Quintin Mikell is "getting better" with his MCL sprain, but Reid would not provide a timeline for when Mikell might return to the field. He has missed the last two games.
It apparently was Reid's decision to keep McNabb on the sideline Sunday. He would not discuss his thought process, and said only that he consulted with the team doctors and trainers about whether McNabb was ready to go. Reid said that McNabb "worked as hard as you can work with still having an injury" last week to maintain his timing. He watched Sunday's game from the sideline.
"The one thing about Donovan is Donovan's always going to want to go," Reid said. "He loves playing the game. Most players do. And so you've got to make a decision there if you're putting him in a bad position, both he and the football team in a bad position, and that's something between the doctors and trainers and myself that we have to evaluate."
Reid said McNabb might wear a brace on his right hand. He now can firmly grip the football. The bigger concern is how mobile can he be on the sprained ankle. Reid said that while McNabb "might" be rusty against the Giants, he should be back to where he was before the injury - relatively healthy while still gaining strength in his surgically repaired right knee.
"I've seen him come off of injuries before and play pretty well," Reid said. "I would expect him to do that. . . . I thought he moved around well last week. As the week went on, he got a little bit better. I think the couple days' rest here has helped him."
The Birds could use a lift from their starting quarterback. It certainly couldn't hurt.
"Listen, I don't want to take anything away from A.J.," Reid said. "Some of the best quarterbacks in the NFL have gone through days like this. It was a bad day to have a bad day, but those things happen and it's important that he learns from it.
"On the other hand, I think it's very important that you have as many starters out, especially down the last part of the season, last quarter of the season, that you can and that you are getting healthy and they are playing efficiently."
Which quarterback would you rather have as your starter on Sunday: Eli Manning, Donovan McNabb or neither? Vote at http://go.philly.com/sports