Rich Hofmann: Eagles, fans about to learn a lot about Kolb

CHARLOTTE - In a typical week, Kevin Kolb gets no practice reps with the Eagles' first-team offense. That is none, as in zero. Almost every team allows the backup quarterback at least a few snaps, but the Eagles do not. It is one of the occupation's hazards.

That is likely to change this week. When the Eagles install their game plan for the New Orleans Saints, when they close practice to the media on Wednesday and begin the real preparation for what is to come, Kolb figures to get the reps. When the first-team offense runs out onto the field on Sunday, when the crowd rises at Lincoln Financial Field and greets them with a roar of anticipation, Kolb figures to be under center.

Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb is stripped of the football by the Panthers' Julius Peppers in the fourth quarter.

One man's broken rib is another man's opportunity - and it could be an opportunity for all of us, too, a chance to finally see what Kolb can or cannot do when given a little time to prepare. It is something he says can make all the difference.

"Definitely," Kolb said. "Definitely. And if I do go, the Saints can put up some points so we've got to rock and roll. We don't have time to stagger."

Now, Donovan McNabb could surprise us all and attempt to play with a cracked rib, the collateral damage from the Eagles' 38-10 pounding of the Carolina Panthers. It's been done before. Some of it has to do with pain tolerance, some of it with the expertise of the nation's pharmaceutical manufacturers. But why risk turning a 2-week injury into something worse?

When McNabb left the locker room after yesterday's game and walked toward the team bus with his parents, the steps he took were very careful. It could not have been a very comfortable flight home. The idea that he might practice on Wednesday seemed pretty far-fetched as he took those first uneasy steps into the stadium tunnel. The idea that he might play on Sunday seemed a reach.

Which leaves us wondering if A.J. Feeley will be re-signed, and if maybe they need to put Michael Vick on the active roster and get him some work in practice before his Week 3 activation. And it leaves us with Kolb, and the most fair public test of his abilities, whatever they might be.

"I think the first thing is to go in there and show leadership," he said. "The biggest thing for a backup quarterback is not to let the offense miss a beat. That's what you want. You want somebody - and hopefully I can do this - to just come in there and run it as smoothly as it was before this, before the injury, and keep us clicking."

Kolb came in yesterday, after McNabb got hurt in the middle of the third quarter, and got nothing done. The numbers tell a fair story: 7-for-11 for 23 yards, two sacks, one lost fumble. But just like last year, when McNabb was benched and Kolb was thrown into the middle of a loss at Baltimore, it was a situation that probably did not offer the truest indication of what might be. A start here would be much more revealing. And, for whatever it's worth, Kolb said he felt better yesterday than he did against Baltimore.

"Sure," he said. "You just feel a lot more comfortable. The more time you play, the more reps you get, the more comfortable you feel. Hopefully, next week, it needs to be a big jump because if I am the guy, I'm going to start the game and my teammates are leaning on me a little bit. So I need to get out there and perform . . .

"If I don't keep the rhythm going and we don't keep putting up points, then it's my fault."

But will he get the chance? Quarterbacks have played the week after breaking a rib before. It isn't a long list, but after a little searching, well, it's a list. Warren Moon tried it in Seattle in 1998 and lasted about three quarters before the agony forced him out. Jim Harbaugh did it for the Bears in 1988 and won a game wearing a flak jacket. Jay Schroeder did it for Washington in 1985 and Ron Jaworski - you remember him - did it for the Eagles in 1984. There are likely others, too.

Jaworski lasted a half when he did it against the Indianapolis Colts before the pain overwhelmed him. He put up nice numbers - 21-for-29 for 194 yards and a touchdown - before gingerly flipping the keys to backup Joe Pisarcik after the intermission. Jaworski, a very tough guy who played 116 straight games at one point, an NFL record since eclipsed by Brett Favre, said the pain was much less the next week.

McNabb's toughness is not in question - the man once played a game with a broken ankle, you might recall. But the whole discretion-is-the-better-part-of-valor thing has to come into play at some point. It is a long year, after all, and the Eagles do not need this thing lingering into October.

Which would leave them with Kolb, at least for a week. And if you were wondering if he would be feeling pressure, he said, honestly, "A bunch."

"I always put more pressure on myself than anybody will ever put on me," Kolb said. "From that point of view, it will never change, regardless of if I'm [No.] 2 or if I'm 1. I'll always have pressure on myself, but I look forward to being successful next week . . .

"The thing I learned last year is that you don't have to be a hero. You've got to go out there and just run the offense. That'll be a big emphasis on my play. There are plenty of athletes in this room, as we could tell today, and plenty of big plays were made without trying to do something heroic."

And, well, we'll see - provided that Donovan McNabb doesn't try to do something heroic first.

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