There were current Redskins, ex-Eagles and current Eagles wearing Donovan McNabb clinic T-shirts on the sun-soaked Evesham Township field Saturday afternoon, as the Eagles' deposed franchise quarterback held his annual youth football clinic, aimed at raising diabetes awareness and raising money for the McNabb neo-natal unit at nearby Virtua Hospital.
The host of the event was in a mellow mood, in his return to the area where he starred for 11 seasons, before being traded to Washington a little more than two months ago. There were a few instances where sharp feelings seemed to lurk below the surface, most notably when McNabb was asked a question about what last season was like, if he'd felt he was being phasaed out in a locker room of young offensive stars.
"When you're an older guy, it not only happens with me, it happens to Peyton (Manning) it happens to Tom (Brady). Everybody talks about you," McNabb said. "You win, everybody talks about you. You lose, everybody talks about you. Some young guys always want to get the credit, until they get in the shoes where they're the ones getting the criticism, then all of a sudden, people don't like to be criticized. I can handle that. Some people can't. Until they get hit with that type of buzz, then they really realize the shoes that I was in. From afar, everybody wants to be who you are. But the fun thing about it is, that's part of the game. That's something that I've taken on, and I know the role, and I love it. I loved it here, and I'm going to love it again in Washington."
McNabb didn't say exactly who or what he was talking about, and there was no opportunity for a followup, during a hurrried onfield media session with Philadelphia news outlets, after the QB sat down and talked at length invidually with the Washington media. But a good guess might be that these were his thoughts concerning wideout DeSean Jackson's remarks in praise of the move to new starting QB Kevin Kolb -- and to previous reports that some of the Eagles' young stars were (perhaps understandably) closer to Kolb last season than to McNabb.McNabb also was widely criticized at the end of last season for agreeing with a questioner that the team showed its youth in back-to-back season-ending losses to Dallas.
But the overall tone was far from bitter. McNabb, in his remarks to campers, even made a joking reference to Eagles players present who were his teammates "before I was traded and booted out of here."
McNabb previously has held this event -- part of a charity weekend that includes a formal party tonight -- at NovaCare. McNabb PR rep Rich Burg emphasized that the Eagles never told McNabb he couldn't use NovaCare this year, but that the QB decided to move on to an Evesham municipal complex. Evesham's mayor, Randy Brown, is a former special teams assistant for the Eagles. Burg said the Birds supplied footballs and a punting net.
McNabb said he anticipates keeping the clinic in South Jersey, though some of his charitable endeavors will be moving to D.C.
"When you've been a part of a city, family, for 11 years, obviously there is a lot of attachment. What we've been able to do over the years with this charity, it's continued to grow. We had a hundred kids; suddenly we've got more than 300," McNabb said, many of them provided the opoortunity through charitable organizations.
"I'm going to move some stuff to Washington, because Obama and his wife do a lot of things dealing with health and education -- it's a big diabetes draw there ... But I've been here for a long time. I feel like this is part of my home, and I want to continue here."
"You just want to be an inspiration in their lives," McNabb said, whether they root for the Redskins or the Eagles.
What's it like, two months into being a Redskin, after so many years with Andy Reid and his system?
"It's fun. I always love challenges. Learning a new offense and getting the personality of a new coach and new guys in the locker room, I enjoy that challenge, and it's been fun."
McNabb thanked a long list of attendees, and noted that Redskins running back Clinton Portis flew in from Miami.
Both Brian Westbrook and his Redskiins cornerback brother Byron attended. The Redskins have discussed a contract with Brian Westbrook but McNabb said he didn't know if that would happen. He said he would love to have Westbrook come join him.
Overall, now, his outlook on the move, he said, is: "I just look at it as an opportunity to continue on a dream -- a dream of trying to hoist up that trophy at the end and get hit with the confetti. I wanted it to happen here. It didn't happen here. Now I have another opportunity to do that in Washington. If I can do it, that'd be great. It's a dream to play this game, a privilege, and one that I don't take for granted."
Asked about assimilating himself in a new locker room, McNabb said: "I try to be genuine. I've always just tried to be myself, and no one else, tried not to be fake, tried not to do something that's not me ... they understand the type of person I am, my rap sheet, but the whole thing about it is, I want them to know me as a person. Forget about what I've done, what I've accomplished, it's all about a new chapter right now, what we want to do as Redskins."
Asked if there were any lingering hard feelings toward the team that traded him to a divisional rival, McNabb said: "Not at all.I've talked to Jeffrey (Lurie), I've talked to Joe (Banner), I've talked to Andy. I've thanked them ... for giving me the opportunity to display my talents and do it on a wonderful stage, to display my talents."
Among the other players and former players present were Devin Thomas and Bobby Wade of the 'Skins, ex-Eagles Bobby Taylor and Chad Lewis, and current Eagles Jamaal Jackson, Todd Herremans, Leonard Weaver and Jeremy Maclin. Kolb had hoped to attend but had a conflict, he said last week.