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Donovan McNabb rewards Redskins fans with hope, so he should be rewarded

The Redskins practice just once Sunday, with coaches calling off the scheduled afternoon session. Once again, Albert Haynesworth does not work in pads.

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By Mike Wise
Monday, August 2, 2010

Donovan McNabb was standing on the field, a good 50 to 70 yards away from the fan barrier. Besides speaking with coaches, he almost seemed to be waiting for his teammates to draw the crowd away so he could walk inconspicuously back to the air-conditioned locker room.

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He had taken his practice jersey, helmet and pads off. To the uninitiated fan that could not see the No. 5 mesh jersey, he could have been any other player on the roster.

But then, this is Redskins Park, which suddenly has a new rock star.

"Donovan, do it for the children!"

The remaining several hundred zealots began to bend their torsos over the barrier and howl, the sound growing in volume and desperation as they pleaded for the most accomplished player on the team to come over and sign their footballs, helmets, jerseys, cupholders, heck, body parts. Anything.

"C'mon, D. McNice, just one autograph. Do it for the kids."

Okay, and a hard-featured, unshaven man of maybe 50 from Fredericksburg named Clifford, who held up his yawning infant son as if he, too, knew who quarterbacked the Washington Redskins.

Beyond the leadership, the résumé of seven playoff appearances in the past 10 years, the easy-as-a-Sunday-mornin' smile, the 30-yard darts on a rope, this is why McNabb is worth the investment. This is why signing him to a three- to four-year deal north of $30 million guaranteed makes sense.

He brings gravitas to a place that had none. He makes emotional people, most of whom would die happy to see him in pain on the ground at FedEx Field the past 11 years, have genuine hope about the future behind their own center for a change.

McNabb at 33 years old is worth the financial commitment because two high-round draft picks were given up to procure him, because with all due respect to Rex Grossman, there is no one capable of taking the reins and shining behind him at the moment.

As Bruce Allen and McNabb's agent prepare to come to terms so McNabb stays in Washington for longer than a year, he is worth it in ways that other town's stars who took Daniel Snyder's money were not. Why? Because at least some of them -- and that's being generous -- were more interested in their financial security than their legacy as an NFL player.

McNabb needs Washington almost as much as it needs him. If he wins big here, No. 5 is on a first-ballot journey to Canton. That fact should not be discounted. Of course, this is a risk -- especially for a franchise that hasn't been fiscally sound in its big-ticket investments for a while.


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