Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

It’s a myth. McNabb did not puke during Super Bowl

A first-quarter hit by Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi on Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. Another Bruschi hit, late in the fourth quarter, may have left McNabb gasping -- and fans getting the idea he puked.
A first-quarter hit by Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi on Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. Another Bruschi hit, late in the fourth quarter, may have left McNabb gasping -- and fans getting the idea he puked. JERRY LODRIGUSS / Inquirer Staff Photographer

This article originally appeared in March 2010.

Over and over on sports-talk radio this weekend, callers and even hosts repeated an all-too-familiar allegation about quarterback Donovan McNabb:

He puked late in the Super Bowl in 2005.

They seem so sure.

Yet no doubling over or spewing is seen on the game footage, and no player clearly stated actual barfing occurred.

With the franchise's winningest quarterback on the trading block, it's time to set the record straight.

Detractors use this myth as evidence McNabb choked under pressure during the biggest game of his career.

It's fair to blame him for tossing three interceptions - as McNabb himself, refusing to make excuses, did after the game.

But not for tossing his cookies.

He was not a passer and a hurler, as one account quipped. (At least not in this game. A YouTube video does show a heaving McNabb - in a game against Tampa Bay.)

Indeed, an alternative explanation has been almost completely overlooked - that McNabb was gasping, not because of nerves, but he got the wind knocked out of him while recovering a fumble, as New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi piled on.

"There was nothing on film to confirm it, which makes me skeptical," said Comcast and WIP-AM analyst Ray Didinger, who long worked for NFL Films. "I do think he was gasping for air, and I think it was a result of the Bruschi hit. . . . The projectile vomiting? I'm not sure that happened."

Some fans may not care - the Eagles still lost - but here's how the story unfolded, according to accounts in The Inquirer and Daily News.

The episode happened as the Eagles were trailing 24-14 with only a few minutes left in the Super Bowl, on Feb. 6, 2005, and as Fox's commentators, Troy Aikman and Cris Collinsworth, repeatedly questioned why the Eagles, needing two scores, were wasting so much time.

The next day, center Hank Fraley said of McNabb on Comcast Sportsnet's Angelo Cataldi Show: "He gave it his all. He was almost puking in the huddle. One play had to be called by Freddie Mitchell because Donovan was mumbling because he was almost puking."

Note the word almost. Twice.

Mitchell's take, as quoted Feb. 9: "You could see that he was dealing with some kind of complication . . . I don't know if it was breathing or what . . . He always coughs a lot, trying to get something out . . . I don't think he was physically hurt."

Note: "I don't know if it was breathing or what."

McNabb's blanket denials on Feb. 9 at the Pro Bowl - "No, I wasn't sick, and no, I didn't throw up" - apparently failed to satisfy the doubters.

"No, Freddie did not call a play. I get the plays in my helmet, so he couldn't call a play," McNabb said.

Running back Brian Westbrook sided with that story. "He wasn't sick. He was coughing a little, but he didn't seem sick," Westbrook said.

Other players were also asked. Guard Jermane Mayberry said he "didn't notice anything out of the ordinary." Receiver Greg Lewis spoke of "coughing . . . I thought he'd just lost his breath." Guard Artis Hicks mentioned "gagging" to the Inquirer, saying of McNabb, "I thought he was going to throw up." But he also told the Daily News: "It wasn't nothing serious. . . . We all knew what he was trying to get out, and we went ahead and ran it."

The Bruschi hit apparently went unmentioned - until three weeks after the Super Bowl.

Clearly, the message never sank in.

"It was a hit by linebacker Tedy Bruschi that left quarterback Donovan McNabb gasping for air at a time when the Eagles were attempting to go into their hurry-up offense during their Super Bowl XXXIX loss to the New England Patriots," The Inquirer's Bob Brookover wrote on Feb. 28, 2005.

"According to two sources, McNabb said he was hit in the back by Bruschi as he fell forward during a broken play on which he unexpectedly received the snap from center Hank Fraley," Brookover continued.

McNabb fell on the ball, then got slammed - one play after getting chased from the pocket, then whacked to the ground by Patriots defensive lineman Jarvis Green as a pass fell incomplete.

The fumble recovery "ended with 3 minutes, 26 seconds remaining in the game," Brookover wrote. ". . . After the play, the Eagles huddled and did not get their next play off until 2:55 remained, with seven seconds showing on the play clock."

"McNabb, on a third-and-10 play, completed a first-down pass to Freddie Mitchell, then motioned for his teammates to quickly get up to the line of scrimmage. But as he was calling the play at the line, he began to gasp and had to motion his teammates back to the huddle, where video of the game clearly shows him violently coughing."

"Coughing." Like Westbrook said.

After a couple of rough hits.

Fans might also have forgotten that this so-called evidence of choking was soon followed by a 30-yard touchdown strike to Lewis.

Of course, it didn't help that the next month receiver Terrell Owens said, "I wasn't the one who got tired in the Super Bowl."

McNabb denied that, too. "I wasn't tired, so whatever comments have been made, I don't know if it was directed toward me . . . I just wanted to set the record straight - I wasn't tired," McNabb was quoted as saying in late April.

Funny that someone often accused of making excuses never used the Bruschi one.

Or ducked responsibility for the loss.

McNabb completed 30 of 51 passes for 357 yards and three touchdowns that day, but afterward said: "I messed up. I'll think about those three interceptions I threw."

That wasn't just a stray remark. Even more clearly, he said: "I threw three interceptions. That's what I look at. I don't look at the three touchdowns. You take away those three interceptions and this could have been a blowout. We could have been up by two or three touchdowns."

"According to a team source, McNabb has been reluctant to talk about what happened on the Eagles' final touchdown drive because he does not want to sound as though he is making an excuse for the Eagles' Super Bowl loss," Brookover wrote.

 


Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.

Peter Mucha Inquirer Staff Writer
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