Rich Hofmann | McNabb can say plenty

MIAMI - It used to be that a reporter from

Philadelphia absolutely had to descend upon the Super Bowl in time for Media Day. That, though, has not been true for a while. What once was a phenomenon is now a made-for-NFL-Network rat's maze. Media Day jumped the shark so long ago that the shark is now a grandparent and the story angles are just as weathered.

So you can skip that. (At least that's become my theory.) What you can't skip, though, is Chunky Soup Day - because that is where we get to hear the State of the Donovan. It is the quintessence of modern American sport, a place where Eagles

quarterback Donovan McNabb will break what amounts to a 3-month silence this week because he is required to do interviews by the soup company that lines his pockets and made his mother famous.

Amid the Super Bowl and its Roman numerals, then, all hail commerce.

McNabb will do a news conference today, and he will sit for some paralyzingly tough questioning from the fellas at NFL Network, and he will do some ESPN conversating as well. And then we will know what McNabb wants us to know, nearly 3 months after tearing up his knee and watching backup quarterback Jeff Garcia lead a reconfigured Eagles offense to the playoffs.

What will McNabb say?

Dunno.

A prediction? I'm guessing dull.

It has been reported that he

is upset with his coach (about not being allowed to travel to the Eagles' playoff game in New Orleans), his trainer (about his rehabilitation from the injury and subsequent surgery), and maybe with some of his teammates (who apparently like Garcia too much). McNabb will dutifully be asked about all of these subjects. The guess is that he will call it all a media creation and call it a day. But you never know.

The best thing McNabb could say? It would be to endorse the way the offense changed after he was hurt, to suggest that more of running back Brian Westbrook next season might turn an already-productive offense when McNabb was healthy into an

unstoppable machine.

Make no mistake, though, that McNabb still has the power to move the Eagles' organization. Because he so rarely opens up, few people see his words as either memorable or powerful. But they are - and, no, not just when he is talking about Terrell Owens and "black-on-black crime." McNabb's words carry meaning. Those who insist that he is simply Andy Reid's vassal have really missed the essence

of that relationship.

If McNabb had wanted to have a news conference earlier than this, he would have had a news conference. Don't kid yourself about what happened when Reid recently canceled McNabb's scheduled press availability in Philadelphia. If the quarterback really had something to say, he would have said it - and said it long ago. Reid would not have been able to stop him unless

McNabb didn't really care about being stopped.

Repeat: While McNabb might not run that organization, he has a lot more clout - both in Philadelphia and leaguewide - than most people think. There are at least three major examples.

We will begin with two words: Rush Limbaugh. When the right-wing commentator was hired by ESPN in 2003 and said that McNabb wasn't as good as his reputation, and that the media desired that black quarterbacks like McNabb be successful, McNabb took him on. In a memorable, strong, moving news conference, McNabb essentially got Limbaugh fired. He sat there

in the Eagles' auditorium and voiced his pain and his objections and single-handedly punched Limbaugh's ticket out of Bristol right there and then.

It was masterful.

Then, there was another Chunky Soup Day at another

Super Bowl site. There, for the first time, McNabb talked about "weapons," and how he needed more of them to be successful as the Eagles' quarterback. One word: "weapons." And from that, after years of insisting that receivers like Torrance Small were just swell, Reid went out and got Terrell Owens. And if hindsight qualifies that as a prime example of be-careful-what-you-wish-for, McNabb still made it happen.

Finally, there was the night in Landover, Md., in 2005. The whole T.O. thing had again gone molten, and Owens was suspended for one game against the Redskins. The Eagles played that night without T.O. and lost that night without T.O. Yet, at his postgame news conference - as one day melted into the next and as a huge decision about Owens' future was about to be made - McNabb said that the Eagles were better off without T.O. He could have mealymouthed it, but no - better off without him.

Right then, you knew that Owens was going to Elba. There was no way the Eagles could bring him back from exile once McNabb said what he had said.

McNabb can do that - such is his stature, still. When he speaks today, he could guarantee Garcia's departure as a free agent if he so chooses. He could insist on more Westbrook if that is his desire. Every year, McNabb has that power when he rubs shoulders with the elite of the NFL, when he delivers his yearly message on its Roman numeraled stage. Veni,

vidi, vici, turkey chili. *

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hofmanr@phillynews.com.

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