Physically, Donovan McNabb thinks he is ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation from knee surgery. "Ahead of schedule" is kind of a term of art, though. It means different things to different people on different days.

But McNabb says he feels good and figures on being ready for the opening of training camp and being ready to play in two or three of the Eagles' four exhibition games.

But an exact timetable?

"It's hard to say," McNabb said yesterday. " . . . It's not to the point where you want to push it. I just want to continue to stay patient with it.

"I think we'll all be, not cautious, but smart," he said.

The quarterback tore up his right knee in the 10th game of last season against Tennessee and underwent surgery soon after. It was described at the time as requiring 8 to 12 months of rehab. McNabb seems to be operating on the good side of those initial parameters.

"I would like to say it, but everybody says to be patient, because you don't want any setbacks," he said. "This is around the time where the setbacks can kind of kick in, if it happens. You've just got to be able to handle it. I'm just taking it slow.

"I'm running. I'm dropping [back]. I'm running on the treadmill."

But, McNabb said, he will not participate in this weekend's minicamp at the NovaCare Complex. *