Aside from a healthy Brian Westbrook, the biggest difference in the Eagles team that has ressurrected its season the past two games has been Donovan McNabb.
Everybody knows the quarterback was going through the worst stretch of his life when he was benched at halftime of the 36-7 loss at Baltimore Nov. 23 -- seven turnovers in seven quarters, one offensive touchdown in that span. Since being reinstalled as the starter the next day, amid Andy Reid's talk about needing to take a step back in order to move forward, McNabb has completed 46 of 69 passes for 451 yards, 5 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Reid reiterated his step-back-to-step-forward thesis yesterday, in discussing the quarterback's turnaround. And McNabb, very pointedly, again did not play along.
McNabb, whose news conference follows Reid's, was asked if the benching had benefited him in any way.
"No," he said, forcefully. Reporters, who usually begin competing to shout the next question as the answer is being delivered, sat in silence, waiting for McNabb to continue. He didn't. That was his one word on the matter
Later, Brian Westbrook posited that McNabb's benching affected his teammates, by making them more cognizant of pulling their load
"I think, as a team, we've taken some of the pressure off him," said Westbrook, who was held out of practice Thursday to rest his troublesome ankle and knee, in the wake of his 39-touch effort in Sunday's upset victory over the Giants. "He's not throwing 50 passes a game."
Will the Birds continue to make things easier for McNabb by balancing the run and the pass the way they have the past two weeeks? Reid's answer to that question reflected his stubborn refusal to acknowledged that anything has really changed.
"Yeah, we always feel that way," he said, when asked if he thought continuing to stress balance was important.
Also sitting out Thursday's indoor practice were wideout Kevin Curtis (concussion), tight end L.J. Smith (knee contusion) and right guard Shawn Andrews (back).
The Eagles brought offensive lineman Franklin Dunbar back to their practice squad to replace Nevin McCaskill, who was signed by the Packers. .