Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb will undergo surgery for his abdominal injury within a week or so and miss the remainder of the season, Coach Andy Reid said today.
McNabb played all season with a sports hernia, a tearing of the abdominal muscles, before aggravating the injury during last Monday night's loss to the Dallas Cowboys. He sat out Sunday's loss to the New York Giants at Giants Stadium and was told by two doctors to undergo surgery sooner rather than later. He had been hoping to put off surgery until after the season.
"He's had two opinions, and both opinions said he needed the surgery," Reid said during a news conference. " . . . There's just too much discomfort to where Donovan can't run and function. We're to that point."
Sunday's loss to the Giants dropped the Eagles to 4-6. The defending NFC champions appear well on their way to becoming the fifth straight Super Bowl loser to follow up with a losing season. Their run of four straight NFC East titles seemingly is about to end, but Reid said his team won't give up.
"The season is not over," Reid said. "There's a lot of season to play."
Reid indicated that Mike McMahon, who started Sunday's game against the Giants in place of McNabb, will remain the club's starter this week.
Cornerback Lito Sheppard also will miss the rest of the season after suffering a severe ankle sprain that will require surgery, Reid said.
The Cincinnati Bengals had their chance to hang a loss on the Indianapolis Colts.
Even after daring Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning to beat them and paying the price, even after surrendering five touchdowns on the Colts' first five possessions, the Bengals were right there early Sunday evening. Their offense flexed its muscles as well, and when quarterback Carson Palmer connected with wide receiver Chris Henry for a 15-yard touchdown just over two minutes into the second half, the Bengals were only one point behind, at 35-34, and a sellout crowd at Paul Brown Stadium was delirious.
In the end, though, the Bengals couldn't quite keep pace. They changed defensive tactics, usually going with an extra defensive back in the second half after being torched by Manning in a first half in which they'd stacked defenders at the line of scrimmage to focus on stopping tailback Edgerrin James. When the Colts saw the adjustment, they simply switched gears and began feeding the ball to James, and put together a 15-play touchdown drive that restored their lead to eight points, at 42-34, late in the third quarter.
The Colts finally played some defense, stopping the Bengals on a fourth-and-one play and getting in interception in Cincinnati's next two possessions, and held on for a 45-37 victory that moved them to 10-0.
"We played a good team on their turf and we won it," Colts Coach Tony Dungy said, "so we're happy about that."
The Colts became the ninth team since the 1970 merger to begin a season 10-0 or better, and their chances of crafting an unbeaten season don't seem quite so farfetched any more. They play the Pittsburgh Steelers next Monday night. They undoubtedly will have to face Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in that game. But Roethlisberger will have to knock the rust off his game as he makes his return from arthroscopic knee surgery, and the Colts will be at home.
If they can get by that test, the Colts will face three more tough opponents (Jacksonville and Seattle on the road and the San Diego Chargers at home) and two not-so-tough ones (Tennessee and Arizona, both at home) on their way to a possible 16-0 regular-season record.
The biggest question might be what Dungy would do if the Colts wrap up home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs early. They're two games ahead of the Denver Broncos in that chase, and Dungy could rest Manning, James and some of his other key players down the stretch in the regular season if all the Colts are playing for is an unbeaten record. Keeping everyone healthy for a Super Bowl push probably would take precedence in Dungy's mind.
No other team in the league has fewer than two losses, and the Colts showed here Sunday why they have become an ever-more-prohibitive favorite to win the Super Bowl. They were the old Colts in the first half, not playing any defense and not making much of an effort to run the ball consistently but simply outscoring an opponent with Manning's quick-strike capabilities.
"We heard they were going to try to stop Edgerrin and force us to throw," Dung said, "and that's what they did in the first half . . . . [Manning] was on a roll and he was hot [Sunday]. And when he is, that's the way the game is going to go. We can still make plays in the passing game."
Some would question the Bengals' decision to begin the game focusing on stopping James, not Manning. One press-box observer likened the strategy to a basketball approach of worrying about stopping Scottie Pippen and forcing Michael Jordan to take all the shots. But it wasn't completely ill-conceived. The strength of the Cincinnati defense had been against the pass, not the run, and the Bengals hoped they could generate some turnovers if they made Manning put the ball in the air early and often. They did get an interception late in the first half when Manning got his feet tangled and floated a pass directly to cornerback Keiwan Ratliff, but the Colts had 35 points on the board by then. The Bengals had reasons for what they did. They simply were wrong.
"It's disappointing," cornerback Tory James said in Cincinnati's subdued postgame locker room. "We felt like we had a good game plan. We just didn't get it done."
But these weren't the old Colts. They were the new, more versatile Colts. Manning threw for 272 yards and three touchdowns in the first half on his way to a 365-yard passing day. James took over in the second half, running for 60 yards after managing only 29 in the first half. The defense made a few key plays when it mattered.
"We just felt like if we made some plays on defense, we'd be okay," Dungy said.
But mostly, it was day for the Indianapolis offense. How good was it? The Colts converted five third downs in which they had 11 or more yards to go into first downs. "That's good," Manning said.
It certainly is. And the Colts certainly are good, something that again was evident here Sunday before they dressed hurriedly to board buses for the two-hour trip back to Indianapolis. It has been a season full of things to savor for the Colts, and they again could crack some smiles as they readied for another pleasant ride home.
"It was nice of them to let us shower," Manning said. "In high school, you have to go right back on the bus without a shower."
Bengals Gain Respect The Bengals' record dropped to 7-3, but they seemed to have won the respect of the Colts.
"Cincinnati is a good team," Dungy said. "They're going to be right there. Nobody is going to want to play them."
Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson vowed Sunday night that the two teams will meet again in the playoffs. Johnson had issued a "guarantee" during the week that he wouldn't be stopped Sunday -- scaling back what might have been a victory guarantee so as not to irritate Coach Marvin Lewis -- and he was right, amassing 189 receiving yards.
"I did my job the best I could," Johnson said. "It's upsetting. We gave it our all."
The Bengals continue to progress under Lewis toward being one of the league's elite teams. But they still haven't gotten the sort of defining win over a top club that officially would announce their arrival at that status.
"We're getting closer," Lewis said. "One day we're going to have that breakthrough. We'll keep working at it, and keep climbing up that ladder." . . . The 62 points by the two clubs Sunday matched the second-highest first-half point total in NFL history, eight off the record set by Oakland and Houston in 1963. . . .
Johnson said he had to go "deep into my bag of tricks" to come up with the touchdown celebration that he unveiled Sunday, in which he kneeled in front of a cheerleader on the sideline and offered a mock proposal.
Dungy offered no objection to the antics.
"I knew there was going to be something," he said. " . . . My thought is, if you don't want it to happen, don't let them get in the end zone."
Owens Decision Due Soon
Participants in Friday's marathon hearing in the Terrell Owens case expect arbitrator Richard Bloch to make his ruling today or Tuesday.
Bloch indicated during the 14-hour proceeding, which ended just after 11:30 p.m. Friday after beginning around 9:30 a.m., that he would make a decision as soon as possible.
The NFL Players Association filed a grievance contesting the Eagles' decision to suspend Owens for four games without pay for conduct detrimental to the team, and union officials said over the weekend they're hopeful that the suspension will be reduced.
"We put on a case, and now it's up to the arbitrator," union chief Gene Upshaw said. "We know he won't rule him a free agent. That's not within his authority. He can reduce the suspension [or] he can say the suspension is justified."
The Eagles also have indicated that they would deactivate Owens for the remainder of the season after his suspension ends. The union contends that would be excessive punishment in violation of the sport's collective bargaining agreement, which sets a four-game suspension without pay as the maximum punishment for conduct detrimental to the team. It's not clear whether Bloch will address the threatened deactivation in this ruling, raising the possibility that the union would file another grievance if that issue remains in dispute after this case is resolved.
Richard Berthelsen, the union's general counsel who was one of the lawyers to argue Owens's case before Bloch, said the union is seeking to have Owens reinstated to full playing status with the Eagles. The team, at that point, could release Owens, but that would leave him free to sign with another club and play the remainder of the season.
"The typical remedy for suspension is reinstatement, and that means reinstatement to the status he had before," Berthelsen said.
During the hearing, the Eagles cited numerous instances of behavior by Owens that they said fell under the category of conduct detrimental to the team. Reid had sent home Owens for a week during training camp. But because NFL players are not paid during training camp, the union was able to maintain during the hearing that Owens had been officially disciplined only once previously this season -- a $150 fine for being late to a meeting.
"They can cite whatever they want, but you have to look at the record," Upshaw said. "And the record shows no instances of him being even fined significantly."
Said Berthelsen: "To me, the most significant piece of evidence was that he wasn't disciplined before. A $150 fine for being late to a meeting was the most he'd been disciplined. Basically, the law requires an employer to use progressive discipline, and that didn't happen in this case. They went from almost nothing to the death penalty, so to speak."
NFL and Eagles officials declined to comment on the hearing.
Owens would lose about $800,000 of his $3.25 million salary for this season if the four-game suspension stands.
A clause in his contract also would enable the Eagles to attempt to recoup about $1.7 million in signing-bonus money if he's suspended multiple games for conduct detrimental to the team. That might give the Eagles leverage to allow their deactivation of Owens to stand. They perhaps could offer Owens a deal by which he could keep all of his signing-bonus money if he doesn't contest the deactivation.