DONOVAN MCNABB, showing excellent mobility as he hustled down a NovaCare hallway toward the cafeteria yesterday afternoon, barely glanced back at a
reporter who asked what the quarterback thought about team president Joe Banner's remarks on WIP Radio on Thursday.
"Didn't hear it," McNabb said.
Told that Banner had said he couldn't "envision a situation" in which McNabb wasn't the team's quarterback in 2008, McNabb replied, "Sounds good to me."
Realistically, McNabb has to counterbalance Banner's words against persistent whispers around the organization that the team will seek a trade in the offseason and embark upon the Kevin Kolb era. Also, it's important to note that Banner didn't issue any guarantees; if a trade scenario develops, Banner can say it just happened to be one he hadn't envisioned.
With four games remaining in the season, starting with tomorrow's visit from the New York Giants, and a wild-card playoff berth still barely possible, Banner would hardly come out and start soliciting sealed bids for his 31-year-old franchise QB, who has struggled in his comeback from anterior cruciate ligament surgery. He also probably wouldn't find this an opportune time to express any doubts, if he had them, about Andy Reid's situation going forward.
As Kolb put it yesterday, "What is Joe supposed to say? This is still a season we can get turned around, and our focus is on this season . . . We don't need any distractions."
Granted, Banner could have said absolutely nothing, or that situations will be evaluated in the offseason, which would have changed the dynamic of reaction from McNabb and Reid yesterday. But again: If McNabb eventually gets traded, or Reid decides he needs to spend a lot more time dealing with the family issues that landed sons Garrett and Britt in jail, nothing Banner said Thursday will turn out to have been legally binding.
Reid happened to have a regularly scheduled news conference yesterday, so he ended up responding at greater length. Reid's situation is different from McNabb's - despite widespread rumors, it seems pretty unlikely to people around Reid that the coach will want to step down, or that Banner and team chairman Jeffrey Lurie want Reid to step down. So Reid was much less wary than McNabb about reacting to Banner's vote of confidence. (Before running into the Daily News reporter, McNabb declined requests to comment, through a team spokesman.)
"I don't think either one of us were looking for it, but it's comforting that Joe said that," Reid said. "That's a very nice thing for him to say. I think the reality is, we're all trying to - and Joe - we're all looking at the Giants game and getting it right. That's where our energy is right now."
Reid was asked whether he still feels he wants to coach the Eagles next season.
"Do you think that I'd want to miss this right here, and these questions you throw at me?" Reid joked. "I work for the best owner in the National Football League. I've said this before, and I'll say it again, if you can say that after 9 years, that's something in this league. So, that's how I feel. It's the greatest organization there is."
Reid was asked whether Banner's declaration takes any pressure off McNabb.
"I think with the quarterback position, there's always pressure. If it's not one kind of pressure, it's another kind of pressure," Reid said. "Donovan handles that so well. It's a great gesture for him. He's very well-deserving. I care about the way that he is handling it, because he's done such a great job for this organization and for this football team. He handles himself like a pro all the time, so that's important."
Previously, Kolb has said he was told when he was drafted that the starting job would belong to McNabb this season. Kolb hasn't indicated he was told anything, one way or the other, about hopes for 2008.
"Right now, we've got to beat the New York Giants, and that's the truth," Kolb said, referring to the 5-7 Eagles' perch on the edge of wild-card contention. "I really haven't thought about it. That's the mind-set I have to have, in order to be competitive. I don't know how long [the current hierarchy] will last . . . As of now, we're playing the Giants, and he's the man."
Kolb said that if he had to play right now, because of injury to McNabb and A.J. Feeley, he could. In his rookie season, he has gotten only a few mopup snaps in the Eagles' lone blowout victory, 56-21, over the Lions on Sept. 23.
"I think I'm pretty far along" in learning the offense, said Kolb, the team's first pick, taken in the second round. "How do you know for sure till you get out there and you make mistakes or you lead your team to victory, one of the two? As of right now, sitting on the sidelines, I feel pretty good."
Reid said McNabb did well, wrapping up a full 3-day week of practice as he prepares to return from a sprained right ankle and jammed right thumb, suffered Nov. 18 against Miami.
"We went indoors every day, and that surface can be a little tough on the joints. So, it was good to see that he held up for the 3 days that we've been in there, and felt good," Reid said.
The Eagles listed their two key Brians, Westbrook (knee) and Dawkins, as questionable, though both are expected to play. Both were limited participants in yesterday's practice. Dawkins went in after apparently twisting his back . . . The Giants are 5-1 on the road this season . . . Giants quarterback Eli Manning has thrown 17 interceptions, but the Eagles have the fewest picks in the league, seven. "I guess that works in his favor," Eagles cornerback Lito Sheppard said. Sheppard, who left Sunday's game after tweaking his healing medial collateral ligament, faulted the fact that he left off his knee brace, thinking he didn't need it anymore. He said the brace will be back tomorrow . . . Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce again did not practice yesterday, and is listed as questionable. "He's obviously their leader on defense," Andy Reid said . . . As expected, the Eagles moved offensive tackle Pat McCoy back onto the roster from the practice squad, after the Falcons tried to sign him. With Quintin Mikell returning from a knee injury, safety Marcus Paschal was released. Paschal will return to the practice squad if he isn't claimed on waivers. *