Phil Sheridan: McNabb's just glad it's over

Posted: October 04, 2010

It was part football game and part morality play, and frankly, it wasn't much of either. When it was over, when Donovan McNabb had managed his new team to a 17-12 win over his old team, there was more relief than glee.

It had been a long week, with years of built-up energy and tension giving way to a geyser of hype. McNabb was coming back to face the team that had traded him, to face off against the friend, Michael Vick, who had replaced him.

"The relief I got was just the fact that this was over," McNabb said. "I mean, the whole hoopla and coming back - I mean, you couldn't watch any TV without people talking about coming back to Philadelphia. One thing I didn't want was for my teammates to see the whole thing being a distraction for me."

The color of his uniform aside, McNabb said, "I felt like I crossed over the Walt Whitman [Bridge] and parked in the players' parking lot. I've been doing it for 11 years, although Mike has my parking spot now."

But Vick disappeared midway through the second quarter with an injury to his chest and ribs. By then, Washington had already taken a 14-0 lead. The rest of the game felt anticlimactic. Kevin Kolb wasn't able to force Washington out of the shell it settled into after halftime.

With the game falling short in the drama department, all that was left was the reaction of Philadelphia - the fans, the media, the players - to McNabb. That was noteworthy only because it wasn't newsworthy. Nothing was thrown. No one was Tased. The fans cheered as McNabb ran on the field and kept up the applause as he was shown on the big video boards.

It was classy of the fans, classy of the Eagles to feature him on the screens, classy of McNabb to raise his arm in acknowledgment.

"I was overwhelmed a little bit with the standing ovation, the reception that I got," McNabb said.

There were, predictably and appropriately, boos when he stepped between the lines as an opponent.

"You realize you spent 11 years here and you knew it was coming," McNabb said. "You didn't expect them to cheer for me the whole game. It just wouldn't be right."

Besides, there were plenty of boos to go around.

"I think all of the quarterbacks got booed today," McNabb said.

That little witticism was about as close as he came to gloating. And it was more like sly acknowledgment that boos have a different quality depending on who they're coming from. A boo is almost a compliment, a sign of respect, on the road. At home, it's an insult.

There were grumblings while Vick was still in the game. His first two drives netted just one first down and a total of 22 yards. McNabb's first two drives netted 14 points, although he didn't have to do much on the first one. Washington coach Mike Shanahan came out of the tunnel running the ball with great success.

"You get into a throwing game, especially here, in this environment with this crowd, you're in for a long day," Shanahan said.

For years, McNabb was on the opposite sideline when the opponent had quick success against the Eagles' game plans. It wasn't McNabb who had to overcome Jason Peters' two holding penalties. It wasn't McNabb who got booed after throwing a check down because his wide receivers couldn't handle physical coverage. It wasn't McNabb who looked like a fool when Andy Reid mismanaged a simple timeout into a delay-of-game penalty - as he did at the end of the first half.

This time, McNabb was merely an interested bystander. Vick got hurt on a brilliant run that was called back because of a holding call on Max Jean-Gilles. Kolb had to walk off the field with his head down after LeSean McCoy's third-quarter fumble.

Right now, Washington does not look like a team capable of helping McNabb complete his quest for a Super Bowl title. But then, the Redskins are just four games into Shanahan's tenure, still learning new systems on both sides of the ball.

"The thing that counts," Shanahan said, "is where you're at at the end of the season."

That was always the mantra around the Eagles during McNabb's tenure. By the end of most of his seasons, the Eagles were driving toward a deep playoff run. That's a ways off, obviously, but Washington could be in worse shape.

"I'm excited that we're 2-0 in the division," McNabb said. "We're 2-2 right now and hopefully we can feed off this."

One of his teammates, looking for a way through the media throng waiting for McNabb in the locker room, summed it up.

"Make room," he said. "NFC East leaders coming through."

For McNabb, that feels very familiar.


Contact columnist Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844 or psheridan@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/philsheridan.

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