BETHLEHEM - Donovan McNabb likes his new toys. But, in a less-than-shocking development, the Eagles quarterback thinks that since you can't win the Super Bowl in July, there isn't much to be gained from talking about winning it then, either. McNabb said yesterday he would like to give the new parts some time to mesh before he starts gushing.
"It's premature to say that," McNabb said, when asked about assessments that rate this the best offense of the Andy Reid Era.
McNabb was speaking after the first Lehigh workout of 2009 for rookies and select vets. The bulk of the team is scheduled to arrive tomorrow, with full-squad, contact workouts starting Friday. "Obviously, when guys come out of college, the great things they were able to do in college, people think they can translate that into the NFL. That's hard to say . . . You have to give guys an opportunity to develop into the offense or the schemes they've been drafted into."
Not only do rookies such as Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy and Cornelius Ingram still have a lot to learn, there are factors such as Brian Westbrook's recovery from an ankle cleanout, and the need to integrate new faces into key roles on the offensive line.
"There's still a lot of questions, including for myself," McNabb said. "I challenge myself to come out each year and do better. For us to say that on the first day of camp - it's hard to say."
McNabb revisited the theme in answering another question:
"We have a lot of new faces, and for me to sit here and say, 'Hey, we're a Super Bowl team' and 'We're going to win the Super Bowl,' I don't believe in all that," he said. "I think that's something that at the end of the year we'll find out who wins and who doesn't. I think we have a great team. We have some great athletes here, but we have to put the pieces of the puzzle together. And if we can do that, hopefully we can ride on and take it and be able to finish this thing off in Miami."
McNabb seemed much less uptight than in his most recent appearance before local reporters, last month when his contract reworking was announced.
McNabb said getting all the skill-position rookies out to Arizona for his annual early-July passing sessions was maybe even more beneficial than usual. McNabb noted that Maclin and McCoy were drafted as 20-year-olds (both have since turned 21), and that Ingram missed his senior year of college with an ACL injury.
"It's more than just going out and catching balls. It's preparing yourself mentally for what we'll be faced with here, as well as during the season," McNabb said. "That's kind of the regimen we do - waking up at 7:30, being over at the facility by 8:15, 8:30, starting with core, after that going with some agility training, then some cardio at the end, then lifting afterward. It's a steady regimen. We get an opportunity to sleep, eat, and then we're out on the field again, battling 115-degree heat."
The youngsters seem to have made a good impression on No. 5.
"One thing you like about them is that they listen," McNabb said. "They're very talented athletically. And they want to do whatever it takes to win. That's something I enjoy that goes beyond how great they are, or how great they were in college. Whenever you have an athlete that comes in who's willing to learn and wants to do nothing but win - and is not a guy that wants to come in and be a star - these are guys who want to contribute and want to do it on a high level."
McNabb didn't want to emphasize the age difference, though. When a questioner mentioned McCoy's story about coming to Lehigh as a youngster and getting McNabb's autograph, McNabb said he hoped that was a story from just a few years back, because, "I'm not that old. I'm not Brett." Nobody asked which Brett he meant. We can assume it wasn't George.
Ingram said going to Arizona helped the rookies - including sixth-round wideout Brandon Gibson - to get to know McNabb, and to spend some time with one another.
"Out there with the star quarterback, it gives you more confidence," Ingram said. "Any time you're doing anything, when you're getting repetitions, you tend to get better . . . we all had a chance to sit down and talk a lot. I think our relationships actually got a lot stronger out there, off the field . . . We talked about a lot of stuff outside of football. I think that makes a unit a lot stronger."
McNabb's caution about needing to fit things together and develop them before pronouncing them great extended to his new blindside protector, Jason Peters. McNabb has never gone into a training camp without seeing Tra Thomas lined up to his left.
"With Tra, having that security blanket for your backside [was comforting], knowing that he's there and communicating with him throughout the whole game with what we were seeing and how to attack it, same with [former right tackle Jon] Runyan. That's something that will be missed," McNabb said. "These are guys who, for 10 years, have always been kind of right up in the forefront making sure the guys understand what we want to do here."
McNabb included himself among the players who now must take a more active leadership role.
He said he and Peters, obtained from Buffalo, will have to adjust to each other.
"It's a big adjustment, because that communication has to be there. I have to have a great feel of his kickbacks, or if he's getting the inside rush, how he's going to be able to force them inside," McNabb said. "If they have a looper, will that give me an opportunity to step-slide left in the pocket, how is he going to be able to adjust? He's going to have to be able to pick up on the cadence and a lot of different things that we do from quarterback to running back communication, and it's going to take time. It's going to take some time." *