Rich Hofmann | McNabb: Garcia my brother in arms

MIAMI - What we forget sometimes, but never should, is this thing Donovan

McNabb has with scars. He counts them. He admires them. He holds them up to the light, examining them this way and that, remembering every detail of the injuries, every ounce of the pain.

McNabb does not forget - not the booing on draft day, not the chanting for backup A.J. Feeley in 2003, none of it. And now there is Jeff Garcia, who came off the bench this season after

McNabb tore up a knee, and led the Eagles to the playoffs.

People have chosen to perceive them as rivals. This is wrong. In an odd way, you get the feeling that McNabb sees himself and Garcia as brothers in pain. Remember, always remember, the scars.

"I was very excited to see the success that he had and the way the fans [rallied around] him," McNabb said yesterday, breaking 3 months of silence into which a whole lot of speculation has been injected.

"Because we all know what happened early on when they

decided to boo him during that Carolina game," McNabb said, recalling the moment when a small portion of the crowd at

Lincoln Financial Field cheered when Garcia went down from a hit and cheered some more when Feeley began loosening up.

"I came back from my surgery and I was at the game," McNabb said. "I was cheering for Jeff,

although I was in some pain, but I was cheering for Jeff. I felt

pain for him because he wasn't received in a way that people gave him a chance.

"Nothing against A.J., because A.J.'s a great player - he's a guy that made big plays for us. But [Garcia] never received that type of open door where they would give him a chance to see what he can do.

"As the weeks continued on, it seemed like everybody now went from the boos to cheers, they were making T-shirts and buying the jersey, and I was excited for him. It's funny. I talked with Jeff right before I left to come here and we were just laughing, cracking jokes.

"For those who feel like I have a grudge on Jeff or I was upset because of the way they received him, that's completely false,"

McNabb said.

He was speaking at a promotional appearance, one of four media things he did yesterday for Chunky Soup, the only team for which

McNabb is pitching this month. Everyone knows that Garcia played well when the offense was

reconfigured to feature more of running back Brian Westbrook, and everyone knows that Garcia is now a free agent, and McNabb could not have made his feelings plainer than he did when asked about it on SIRIUS satellite radio:

"I would love to have Jeff back, because he's that type of player, that type of person."

So that's it, then. McNabb knocked down most of the stuff that has been said in recent weeks, acknowledging that he was disappointed not to have been in New Orleans for the

playoff game because of a team rule that leaves injured players home, but saying that everything else was fine.

That was fairly predictable. The whole I-felt-Jeff's-pain riff was far more interesting.

"I actually was very happy for Jeff," McNabb said. "Before the decision was made, I talked to Andy about making sure that he went with Jeff. I know the fans of Philadelphia wanted A.J. Feeley, and they cheered for him, and I just continued to tell Jeff, 'You were brought in here to lead this team. Whatever position you may have been in, whether you were a starter or backup, you're here to lead this team and now's the time.' "

McNabb has had so many great moments as the Eagles' quarterback, but you really get the impression, just listening to him, that he believes Philadelphia defines him by the low moments instead. That some people do is undeniable. That this minority has etched itself onto his memory is just as undeniable.

"People are going to say whatever - if I'm jealous of [Garcia], or I wasn't received like that, or while I was playing . . . they

never made T-shirts for me,"

McNabb said. "That's easy to sit back and say, but I didn't have jealousy toward him at all. I was hoping we could have been here playing because I think it would have been a great, great ending for him."

The whole Philadelphia experience has quite clearly left its marks, and they seem to be

permanent. Someone asked

McNabb yesterday how he felt when some fans began saying they would prefer Garcia over McNabb next season. Again, McNabb took the question head-on.

"It didn't hurt me to the point where I felt like what I've done or what I've accomplished in Philadelphia has now gone down the drain," he said. "When you hear so much - and I've been hearing it now for the last 8 years - and I heard it in [2003] when I came back from the ankle injury . . . when we went [0-2]. I heard, 'Put A.J. in, Donovan stinks.' That doesn't bother me and it didn't bother me, either, when people said they wanted Jeff in. I was a big fan of Jeff.

"But it comes to a point where you begin to wonder, 'Where's this coming from?' But I wasn't going to bang my head up against a wall and try to come up with an answer."

McNabb said his job now is to get ready for next season. He would do well to forget the past, but that obviously isn't happening. *

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