KEVIN KOLB, probably the most scrutinized 36th overall selection in the history of the National Football League, arrived in Philadelphia yesterday afternoon for his first Eagles minicamp, which began with an evening meeting and will continue on the field today through Monday.
When he met with reporters just before the meeting, Kolb acknowledged he still had not met Donovan McNabb, the franchise quarterback whose tenure he might end up curtailing.
Asked whether he was eager to introduce himself to McNabb, Kolb replied: "Yeah, I am. Obviously, there's been a lot of stuff floatin' around, you know. Just ready to, man-on-man, get to meet him, see his face, get to talk to one another, get to know one another and build a relationship."
What did he anticipate they'd talk about?
"Football," Kolb said. "That's what we're here for."
Kolb said he would ask McNabb how his recovery from anterior cruciate ligament surgery was going, and "just pick his brain - be a sponge."
McNabb spoke publicly this week for the first time since the Eagles surprised him and nearly everyone else by making the Houston QB their first pick in the April 28 draft. McNabb said he would befriend and try to mentor Kolb, though he would try to keep him from becoming the starter any time soon.
This weekend, A.J. Feeley will take the starter's reps, as McNabb's recovery continues. Feeley will rotate with Kolb and veteran Kelly Holcomb. This will be Kolb's first opportunity to begin rebutting draft experts who knocked him as a "system quarterback" - the product of Houston coach Art Briles' gimmicky offense, which Kolb ran in high school and in college. Kolb said he has been studying the Eagles' playbook he took back to Houston from draft weekend.
"I was more nervous the last couple of days than I actually am standing here," Kolb said. "Now that I'm here, it's back to football, and that's what we all are here for. Getting back on the field is a big deal for us . . . [I have] a decent grasp of what they've put in so far [this offseason]. We'll see tomorrow when it's going 100 miles an hour; it'll be a little different then."
Kolb said he is ready to go under the microscope, as the presumed heir apparent.
"Ready or not, here it comes," he said. "My wife [Whitney] and I have been talking about that the last couple of weeks. We're as prepared as we can get. I'm sure there'll be some struggles, like there always are, but we'll push through it."
Kolb agreed with a questioner that the hubbub over the Eagles drafting a QB, and the analysis of McNabb's reaction, has perhaps been overblown.
"I'm still just a rookie. I've got a lot of developing to do. Donovan's going to be back, he's going to be great. I think [the draft] just shocked people. It shocked a lot of people. There's a good reason [for all the attention], but I do think it's gone a little too far, and Donovan's definitely the franchise guy," Kolb said.
He didn't seem worried that arriving on such a cloud of hype would affect the reactions of his new teammates, most of whom will meet him for the first time after reading about him and watching him on TV for the past 2 weeks.
"If I'm just myself, most of the guys will understand where I'm coming from, and that I'm not the one doing most of the talking," Kolb said. "You'd like to let 'em know that, hey, there's a reason they took me, but I think that's going to come in time. Obviously, it's not going to go as smooth as I would like tomorrow, but I've just got to stay in there and keep working. They'll respect that in the end."
Feeley, a fifth-round draft choice of the Eagles in 2001, was asked what he remembers from his first-ever minicamp.
"You're kind of caught up in shock a little bit. You're kind of caught up in the fact that it's the NFL and you're playing with guys you've seen on TV for a while. Then there's the pace of the game, and obviously, the terminology is tough to pick up," Feeley said. "It's something foreign to you . . . That's the tough part of the game, going into that huddle with new faces and having that leadership ability and being able to say some of the plays with confidence - let alone going out there and executing the play. It can be tough. It can be overwhelming, at times. It was for me at first. I know it was for Don, and a lot of guys who come into this situation."
Kolb said his initial exposures to the local media have gone pretty well.
"It's not so bad," he said. "You guys are harmless. So far."
'Truck Driver' out of road
Sam Rayburn, the 2003 rookie free-agent find who appeared in 52 Eagles games during his 4-year career at defensive tackle, was released yesterday. The move wasn't a surprise, since the Eagles last week signed free agent DT Ian Scott, formerly of the Bears. That again gave them six defensive tackles, which was where they were briefly earlier in the offseason after signing free agent Montae Reagor. The trade of Darwin Walker to Buffalo temporarily reduced the number to five, on a team that added a second-round rookie, Victor Abiamiri, to a group of five incumbent defensive ends. That's a crowded defensive line.
Rayburn was nicknamed "Truck Driver" by former Eagle Hugh Douglas, who thought Rayburn looked as if he belonged in a semi.
The cap hit for releasing Rayburn (around $650,000) pretty much equals what his base salary for this season would have been."Most of the time, when you bring a guy in, someone's going to leave," Reagor noted yesterday. "That's the nature of the business."
Usually veterans aren't too excited about minicamp, but Reagor is an exception. The former Colts starter hasn't been on the field since suffering serious head and facial injuries in an auto accident en route to a game last Oct. 22.
"I can't say enough of how excited I am, the pleasure of being back on the field, being able to do something that was almost taken from me, permanently," Reagor said. "It's going to be an exciting time, man."
Reagor said he would be limited this weekend, but wasn't sure what he was allowed to do.
"I should be ready by the time camp starts," he said.
Brian Dawkins will not attend the minicamp while attending to personal business, the team said . . . Third-round rookie running back Tony Hunt, from Penn State, said his goal for the weekend was to "learn some plays and meet some coaches and players" . . . Third-round linebacker Stewart Bradley, a strongside linebacker, might have the clearest path to playing time of any Eagles rookie. Bradley is expected to back up Chris Gocong, last year's third-rounder who missed the whole season with a neck injury. Former starter Dhani Jones was released. "I was surprised," Bradley said about Jones getting axed after the draft. "You never want to see a guy lose his job, but for my own personal situation, it was definitely a positive" . . .
The top candidate for training-camp fan favorite might be seventh-round running back Nate Ilaoa, a 5-9, 245-pound bowling ball of a runner. Ilaoa said his journey began around 9 p.m. Thursday in Hawaii and ended midafternoon yesterday, including a layover of a couple of hours in Los Angeles. "Looking at the schedule, I've got to get up at about 6:30 or 7 [a.m.]. That'll be about 1 [a.m.] in Hawaii, so it'll probably hit me by then," he said. *