Rich Hofmann | Clearing the Kolb webs

New kid behind center up front about bumps in learning process

Posted: May 15, 2007

"I wasn't in total awe. I wanted to get started. I wanted to show them that I can do what they want me to do. I just wanted to come out and do some things in the offense and try to stand out a little bit but continue to get better every time I step up and get reps."

- Donovan McNabb, at his first minicamp in 1999

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EIGHT YEARS later, another begins. The times were different and the imperatives were different - the projected starting time for Donovan McNabb was being measured in weeks and not the years being used for Kevin Kolb - and, yet, the process was pretty much the same.

They both looked pretty good, right from the jump, McNabb then and Kolb now. Yesterday, Kolb would ice his arm like a baseball pitcher and amiably endure a series of interviews at the end of his first professional football endeavor.

When you compare the two personalities, one thing you notice right off is Kolb's willingness to talk about his weaknesses, and to let you in on a little of the inevitably messy process of learning a professional offense.

McNabb was (and, really is) all about projecting confidence and constructing a kind of shield-of-confidence around everything. Kolb is different - clearly optimistic about his future but also not afraid to tell a story on himself, to give you a feel for his journey - bumps and detours included.

So, when somebody asked about what might have been the best advice he had received so far, Kolb said that it wasn't advice, not exactly, and then went on to tell a story about Marty Mornhinweg, the Eagles' offensive coordinator.

"The one thing I loved the most," Kolb said, "was that coach Mornhinweg would see when I was getting rattled, he would see when I was getting frustrated, and instead of saying, 'All right, let's go rookie, get ready,' he'd pull me on the side and say, 'Take a deep breath.' He'd say, 'I'm going to give you 5 seconds.' And he'd give me 5 seconds. And this was during team [drills]. Everybody's there, 180 people were watching, everybody's there, and he takes the time to do that and give me the time to catch my composure and think about what I'm doing and go back out and run and execute it.

"Just for a coach with his background, and the way he runs things, and how precise he likes them, to take the time for a rookie, that showed me a lot and really helped me to progress in what I was trying to do."

The first minicamp practice, Kolb said, he was just acting without thinking. The next couple of practices, he said that he struggled more as he worked to understand what he was doing. The last couple of practices, he said, it all began to mesh a little better. Up ahead are weeks of work with quarterbacks coach Pat Shurmur, who will help Kolb try to make connections between the playbook and the film study and the on-the-field practices.

"It's pretty different," Kolb said, when asked to compare the Eagles' offense to what he ran at the University of Houston. "There are some concepts that are the same but it's the little things that get you as a rookie: the snap count, the motions, the way you take a snap, certain drops they ask you to do, the play-fakes, the little things you don't think about when you're in a system for a long time. That's what gets you.

"It's like you're taking the snap and then you're saying, 'Oh, now I've got to look upfield.' That second is going to cost you. Once you get that down, it's a lot smoother and that's why you show a fast progression throughout the last couple days of the minicamp."

Still, it is a mass of information. Just trying to get it all down, it must give you a headache sometimes. If it ever really did for McNabb, though, he never let you in on it. This kid is different, though, at least at the outset. As the water rises around him, he doesn't mind telling you what he's thinking while he's paddling.

"I think the only thing you can do is take a step back and look at where you're going and where you've been and how much God has blessed me," Kolb said. "That's what I try to do. I step back and go, 'All right, you started 50 games in college, you won a conference championship, you got drafted 36th overall, you just got married, you're with the greatest organization in the NFL.' I mean, what else?

"That starts making you think positive rather than, 'I've got all this to learn, and this is tough.' That's where my parents and my family and my wife come in."

Somebody asked when he might get a breather.

"That's a good question," Kevin Kolb said, although he clearly wasn't looking for an answer.

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Send e-mail to hofmanr@phillynews.com. For recent columns, go to http://go.philly.com/hofmann.

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