Donovan McNabb obviously could feel the love in the NovaCare auditorium, as he ascended the podium on his 32nd birthday, for a very special episode of the weekly quarterback news conference.
As you might have heard, McNabb was benched for the second half last Sunday in what turned out to be an ugly loss to Baltimore. Then, Monday, he was named the starter for Thursday's game against Arizona.
After thanking reporters for their birthday wishes yesterday, McNabb was asked how he found out he was again the starter. Of course, the subtext here was that Andy Reid sent quarterbacks coach Pat Shurmur to tell McNabb he was being benched in Baltimore.
“I was told by the janitor. Me and him have a pretty good relationship around here. It was a pretty good conversation we had,” McNabb said.
McNabb went 8-for-18 for 59 yards with two interceptions and a lost fumble in the first half against the Ravens. He was 2-for-11 with two interceptions after a 6-for-7 start.
Asked how confident he was that he could correct the problems, he said: “I know I will. I think the rest of the guys know that as well. You look at things that have happened, they are kind of uncharacteristic for me. I know that I have to battle through that, playing the position. Not everyone plays a perfect season.
“You are a competitor. No different than basketball or baseball. If you’re a little off you keep shooting. That’s the way I feel about it.”
Reid gave no indication Monday about how long a leash McNabb might be on. Given the chance to say that McNabb was the starter for the rest of the season, Reid walked away from the podium.
“I wouldn’t look at it like I’m on a short leash,” McNabb said. “I think a lot of people can make a lot of assumptions about what happened in the last game. I’m going to go out and do what I’m supposed to do at the position and everything will take care of itself.”
Asked whether his relationship with Reid can be the same following the benching, McNabb said, “I think it can … The relationship is where it was and where it should be. In asking me that question, you would have to ask Andy that same question.”
On whether he would be looking over his shoulder, McNabb said, “Not at all.”
It was clear, though, that turnovers are on McNabb's mind. Reid said Monday that the turnover-prone QB of the past few weeks is not the real McNabb, who at one point this season had the lowest interception percentage in NFL history. McNabb has five interceptions and two lost fumbles in the last two games.He said yesterday he would have a "different mindset" about taking care of the ball.
“You have to have confidence in yourself first before look around to someone else," McNabb said. "You have to ask yourself, ‘Are you doing your job to the fullest?’ That is something I will continue to do. If I elevate my game to another level then everyone will follow. You have to put pressure on yourself to be that guy, to turn the game around, to make that big play.”
Clearly, McNabb was not happy with being pulled.
“As a competitor you wouldn’t take yourself out,” he said. “I was expecting to go out there in the second half against Baltimore. It’s 10-7, the game is not out of reach … It was a decision that was made by Andy. I went along with it and was trying to root on my team.”
Later, McNabb's main weapon, Brian Westbrook, indicated he expects to be able to play Thursday. Westbrook has been severely limited the past few weeks, at least, by ankle and knee injuries.