McNabb's big decision: No surgery on ankle

Posted: November 22, 2002

A cast, not a cut.

That was the decision reached by Donovan McNabb and his advisers after visiting an ankle specialist in Houston this week. The specialist, Kevin Varner of the Baylor College of Medicine, placed McNabb's right ankle in a cast Wednesday.

That means no surgery.

The Eagles quarterback, who broke his right fibula during Sunday's 38-14 victory over Arizona, is still expected to miss six to eight weeks. That time frame likely would not have changed significantly if he had surgery. The risks of surgery included infection, problems with the pins or screws used to stabilize the bone, and a decrease in blood to the bone.

McNabb, who flew back to Philadelphia yesterday morning, was not available for comment on the decision.

Coach Andy Reid was not available after news of McNabb's decision was released. The apparent delay in announcing the decision was caused by logistics. Eagles trainer Rick Burkholder had flown to Houston with McNabb and the quarterback's family, but had to return a day earlier to treat other injured players at the Eagles' NovaCare Complex.

"The main thing is that we get together and talk through it," Reid said. "Rick came back while Donovan stayed there. They've been in communication, but we want to sit down and talk with him."

McNabb arrived at the complex just as Reid was going to the indoor field for practice. McNabb left by a back door after talking with Burkholder.

McNabb is scheduled to return to Houston in two weeks to be reexamined by Varner.

Paging Dr. Welbourn. Guard John Welbourn suffered a fractured fibula in his left leg during the season opener, against Tennessee. That's the same bone McNabb broke Sunday, although Welbourn's break occurred higher on the leg, not as close to the ankle.

Welbourn missed only four games but was out for five weeks, since there was a bye week during his rehabilitation. The four-year veteran says he feels as strong as he did before the injury, but hesitates to project his own situation on McNabb.

"It's different for everybody," Welbourn said. "It will take him a good month or so to get back in the swing of things, but he should be fine."

As for the difference between a high fibula break and a low one, Welbourn took a pass.

"I'm not a doctor," Welbourn said. "I don't know those things. I don't know enough about anybody else's injuries to say anything intelligent about it. I'll give you my Andy Reid imitation: 'We're not going there.' It's a good answer."

Different viewpoints. Running back Duce Staley said the Eagles must rise to the challenge of playing without their star quarterback.

"In war terms," he said, "it's like the general has been shot, so let's rally the troops."

Safety Brian Dawkins grimaced when he heard that one.

"The general has not been shot," Dawkins said. "He hurt his leg. He'll be back. And we'll be OK until he gets back."

Emmons imminent. Strong-side linebacker Carlos Emmons practiced yesterday after missing three games with a hamstring tear. Emmons said he was "good to go."

If Emmons is still 100 percent on Monday night, he could return to the starting lineup. He would replace Ike Reese.

Emmons' return could have a domino effect on the roster. Rookie linebacker Justin Ena was active each week while Emmons was unable to play. Ena has played well on special teams, but the surfeit of linebackers could result in his being inactive Monday night.

That would open a spot for Tim Hauck. The veteran safety and special-teamer has been inactive for both games since re-signing with the Eagles.

Changes. Film review has led to two changes in the stats from last week's game against the Cardinals.

Defensive end N.D. Kalu was credited with half a sack of quarterback Jake Plummer. Reese, who was originally given full credit, had the other half.

Meanwhile, one of Plummer's throws to running back Marcel Shipp was actually a lateral. So Plummer lost 7 passing yards and a completion. Shipp gained 7 rushing yards.

And so on. Koy Detmer's new role as the starting quarterback won't affect his other job. He will still hold on field goals and extra points, Reid said. . . . Defensive end Derrick Burgess, who broke his foot in the season opener, is still not ready to practice. Reid said Burgess was "making progress" and working out in the pool in the trainer's room.

Contact Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844 or psheridan@phillynews.com.

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