The Philadelphia Eagles not only plan to keep Donovan McNabb in their lineup, but they don't even intend to make any changes to their offensive approach to compensate for the fact that the quarterback is playing with a sports hernia that will require surgery at some point.
McNabb said Wednesday he hopes opposing defenses test his mobility by blitzing him regularly because that will create more possibilities for big plays for the Eagles. Coach Andy Reid said McNabb's injury won't prevent the usually mobile quarterback from taking off from the pocket and running with the ball when needed.
"He can run," Reid said during a news conference in which he brought along trainer Rick Burkholder to brief reporters on McNabb's condition. "This doesn't stop him from running the football."
McNabb and the Eagles are hoping he can tolerate the pain all season and continue playing, then undergo the necessary corrective surgery in the offseason. Reid said he will rely on the experiences he had a few years ago with cornerback Sheldon Brown, who played an entire season with a sports hernia before having offseason surgery.
"We really just did what he could do," Reid said. " . . . I told Donovan the same thing the last few weeks. I told him, 'I'm not going to stick you out there and put you in a position where you can't function.' . . . We've had success getting guys through [the season] with this injury . . . [but] if it ends up where he can't function, then we'll set him down."
McNabb called the injury "a minor setback." He said he was "confident" he could continue playing through the discomfort and was "ready to go" this week in practice and in Sunday's game at Kansas City. He said he plans to play every game this season.
"I don't have any concerns right now," he said. "Obviously the mental phase of it is the questions I had early on, and I had those questions answered. This is just something I have to deal with and realize that some days you feel great and some days you won't. You have to be a professional about it. . . . I look forward to getting out on the field this week and continuing on."
Burkholder declined to say for certain whether McNabb can make it through the entire season without undergoing surgery. "That's too hard to tell [but] other guys have done it," the trainer said.
Burkholder said that McNabb's injury won't worsen if he continues to play, although his discomfort might. He called the injury "something you can play with. It is uncomfortable. Rest does not correct the problem. . . . His pain may get worse [or] may get better. [But] the condition won't [worsen]. . . . Pain is really the thing that limits what he can do."
A sports hernia is defined as a tear in the muscles of the lower abdomen. Burkholder called a sports hernia a lower abdominal strain that becomes chronic to the point that the sufferer has groin pain.
McNabb reported to training camp suffering from abdominal pain, Burkholder said. McNabb said he was told the injury comes from overuse but he could not recall a specific incident in his offseason workouts in which he suffered the injury.
"At least it comes from working hard, not sitting on the couch eating Doritos," McNabb said.
According to Burkholder, McNabb aggravated the injury during the Eagles' triumph over the San Francisco 49ers 11 days ago. He was unable to practice on Wednesday of last week. McNabb underwent an MRI exam last week and was examined by a Philadelphia doctor who's an expert on the injury, Williams Meyers. He played in last Sunday's victory over the Oakland Raiders and was in obvious discomfort, then got a second opinion Tuesday from a doctor in Boston that Burkholder did not identify. The doctors agree that McNabb's injury can be classified as a sports hernia, Burkholder said.
Undergoing surgery immediately would cause McNabb to miss most of the remainder of the season. The normal recovery period from such a procedure is eight to 12 weeks, Burkholder said. McNabb will take anti-inflammatory medication as part of his treatment, said Burkholder, who added: "It's something that hopefully we'll be able to manage."
Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens underwent surgery for a sports hernia while he was with the 49ers, Burkholder and Reid said, and continues to deal with occasional abdominal discomfort. The Eagles will monitor McNabb and do their best, Reid said, to do what's right for him as well as for the team.
"It's a judgment call," Reid said, adding that he's been getting backup quarterback Koy Detmer some additional practice-field work. "You go with what you see. . . . It's different for everybody. . . . If you're putting him in jeopardy, then you get him out of there."
McNabb said he felt better Wednesday than he did in the middle of last week, and indicated he will do his best Jake Plummer impersonation on Sunday after watching the Denver quarterback flummox the Chiefs defense with passes on rollouts Monday night. It's only three games into the season and yet McNabb already has had to deal with a bruised chest, a bruised shin and a sports hernia.
"I guess I can be the poster child for what playing football is all about," he said. . . .
Reid said that kicker David Akers won't play against the Chiefs because of his torn right hamstring. Reid gambled on Akers's health last week and nearly lost. Reid failed to activate kicker Todd France from the practice squad for the Raiders game, in which Akers re-injured his already ailing right leg on the opening kickoff. The left-footed kicker spent the day in agony but was able to connect on the game-winning field goal from short range in the final seconds. . . .
The Eagles also are likely to be without defensive tackle Darwin Walker in Kansas City because of his bruised thigh, Reid said.
Labor Meeting Today
Representatives of the league and the NFL Players Association are scheduled to resume their labor negotiations today. . . .
It was more of the same Wednesday for Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Players Association chief Gene Upshaw on Capitol Hill. Members of the Senate Commerce Committee generally praised the NFL's steroid policy while criticizing the head of baseball's players' union, Donald Fehr, during a hearing that featured the leaders of the nation's professional sports league. The committee is considering proposed legislation that would set federal standards for steroid policies in all pro sports.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) did question Tagliabue sharply at one point about comments by in a televised interview that he treated one dozen to two dozen NFL players. Shortt is accused of filling steroid prescriptions for players from the Carolina Panthers. But McCain quickly dropped the issue with Tagliabue, and he and other lawmakers kept the focus on Fehr for most of the hearing.
Winborn on Trading Block
The 49ers announced that they will trade linebacker Jamie Winborn, who left the team while awaiting a deal. Winborn was unhappy about losing his starting job to converted defensive end Andre Carter. After last weekend's loss to the Dallas Cowboys, first-year 49ers coach Mike Nolan had expressed anger that some the club's players had refused to trust the system of the team's new coaching staff, but he didn't name any players.
The Pittsburgh Steelers will be without linebacker Clark Haggans for five weeks after he underwent surgery Wednesday for a partially torn groin muscle. Haggans was injured near the end of last Sunday's loss to the New England Patriots in which he was credited with 12 tackles and a sack and forced two fumbles. James Harrison replaces him in the Pittsburgh lineup. . . .
Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair sat out Wednesday's practice because of a sore foot but is expected to practice today and play this weekend. . . .
Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey didn't practice Wednesday but could play this weekend. He left Monday night's game with a hamstring injury but an MRI exam showed no tears. Bailey already was playing with a dislocated shoulder.
Injured quarterback Chad Pennington said in a written statement released Wednesday by the New York Jets that he is "truly optimistic" about his ailing right shoulder and refuses to feel sorry for himself. He said he does not believe he came back too soon from his previous injury. Pennington re-injured his shoulder, on which he underwent offseason surgery for a rotator-cuff tear, during last Sunday's overtime loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"I know I will bounce back from this situation," Pennington said in the statement, adding that the new injury came in a different spot than the old one. " . . . There is no doubt I did not come back too early or rush the process of rehabilitation."
The Jets said in a written statement that orthopedist James Andrews, after examining Pennington on Tuesday in Birmingham, agreed with the diagnosis of the team's medical staff that Pennington has a torn rotator cuff in the shoulder. Andrews is to re-evaluate Pennington in two to three weeks, the club said in its statement.
That came after an NFL source said late Tuesday that Andrews was uncertain following the examination whether Pennington had a new tear that would require surgery. Either way, it still does not appear that Pennington will play again this season.
Coach Herman Edwards became irritated Wednesday when reporters continued to question him about the details of Pennington's injury, but the Jets did not reveal the severity of Pennington's injury last season. Edwards reiterated that he does not expect Pennington to play again this season, but he backed off his assertion from Tuesday that fellow quarterback Jay Fiedler also will miss the rest of the season. It now appears that Fiedler will miss only one to two months because of his dislocated shoulder.
The Jets signed Kliff Kingsbury to be their No. 3 quarterback, for now, behind new starter Brooks Bollinger and just-signed backup Vinny Testaverde. . . .
The Patriots signed tailback Amos Zereoue. Kevin Faulk, New England's backup to starting tailback Corey Dillon, has a broken bone in his foot that could keep him sidelined for up to two months. The Patriots released wide receiver Andre Davis.