Donovan McNabb probably will not play until Redskins' regular season opener because of ankle injury

Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 26, 2010; 1:22 AM

With his sprained ankle wrapped, Donovan McNabb wore a ballcap turned backward at practice Wednesday afternoon as he watched someone else command the offense he was brought here to guide.

Midway through the preseason schedule, the ankle has sidelined McNabb, who is not expected to appear in another game until the regular season begins.

Concern over the quarterback's injury has little to do with the Washington Redskins' preseason game at the New York Jets on Friday night and everything to do with their regular season opener against Dallas in 2½ weeks.

McNabb's progress picking up the new offense has been inconsistent. Sitting out the team's third preseason game means he's missing live-action snaps that could pay dividends when the games begin to count.

"I think it makes it harder for him because he doesn't get that trial run," offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. "He still works out here every day. He's gonna work at it just as much. He was better last week than the week before."

Rex Grossman will start and play at least the first half against the Jets. Coach Mike Shanahan said chances are "very, very slim" that McNabb will make an appearance in the team's final preseason game next Thursday at Arizona.

McNabb said he wants to play against the Cardinals, but Shanahan doesn't like playing his quarterback in the fourth, and final, preseason game. With McNabb's left ankle already ailing, the team can't risk further injury to him.

"Yes, you would like" to get him more action, Kyle Shanahan said, "but we put him in and play that game and he gets hurt, it's the dumbest decision in the world. You got to be smart about it."

Coaches will try to make the most of the next couple of weeks. Entering his 12th season, McNabb is learning his second offense. He's the first to acknowledge it hasn't always been easy, and the first two preseason games have shown there's still plenty of room for improvement.

The challenge will be to continue McNabb's education without game action.

"Obviously, you want to continue playing with the guys, with the [starters], and continue to work your timing in game situations," McNabb said. "Obviously, due to this injury, there is a minor setback. . . . I don't think it's a [major] setback in any way. Instead of it being a physical thing, you have to make sure mentally you continue to stay involved in what's at stake and what we're doing."

He'll still be plenty engaged. While Grossman, Richard Bartel and John Beck will handle the snaps in practice until trainers feel McNabb's ankle is sound, McNabb will be near the quarterbacks at all times. While one is taking the snaps in practice, the other three will be around quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur, reading the script, calling out the play and familiarizing themselves with terminology and formations.

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