BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Donovan McNabb zipped passes to rookies and undrafted no-names, clearly not bothered by a shoulder injury that forced him to miss a few offseason practices.
More pain, less gain
Since leading the Eagles to the Super Bowl in 2004**, QB Donovan McNabb has suffered through three injury-plagued seasons:
After limiting McNabb's throws in minicamp, the Eagles shut him down during a passing camp in June because of an injury they termed "tendinitis." McNabb called it "tightness." No matter, he rested his shoulder, rehabbed and resumed throwing during workouts with teammates at his home in Arizona.
"I haven't had any reoccurrence," he said. "It's fine, and I don't expect to have any reoccurrence. It took rest and stretching. In this position I play, it's just repetition and continuing to throw the routes and getting that velocity back that you would throw in game speed."
But McNabb probably will get more rest in practice, giving way to backups Kevin Kolb and A.J. Feeley.
"We keep a count of it each day and it feels fine now," McNabb said.
McNabb fired several passes to second-round pick DeSean Jackson and rookie free agent Shaheer McBride in the morning practice. He drew cheers from the crowd after tossing a pretty 35-yard pass to Frantz Hardy, another undrafted rookie.
The team's first practice in full pads is set for Saturday, so McNabb will have to wait a few more days before he can work with more familiar targets. The team didn't get him a big-time playmaker like Chad Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald or Roy Williams, but McNabb is saying all the right things publicly.
"I love my guys," he said.
Jackson, a second-round pick, was the only addition to a much-maligned receiving corps that includes starters Kevin Curtis (77 catches, 1,110 yards, six touchdowns) and Reggie Brown (61-780-4).
"It's important for us to get in a rhythm early and continue to stay consistent throughout," McNabb said.
McNabb is coming off an up-and-down season. He started slow after returning quickly following surgery to repair a torn knee ligament that forced him to miss the final six games in 2006. But he finished strong after ankle and thumb injuries cost him two games late in the season.
McNabb's completion percentage (61.5) was the second-highest in his career, and he threw for 3,324 yards, 19 TDs and seven interceptions. He led the Eagles to three straight wins at the end, but they finished 8-8 to miss the playoffs for the second time in three seasons after reaching the Super Bowl in 2004.
"I expected to come out a lot better than I did," McNabb said. "That was the frustrating part about it, because you just don't have all of your faculties, if it was the mobility, or if it was just the sudden movement to be able to react a little bit quicker.
"Fortunately, I've had a great offseason and look forward to having a way better start than last year. As a team, I just kind of thought that we were trying to find our niche in this offense together. I thought we began to get that toward the middle of the year on, and it got better and better. Now, we need to start that way."
It's a critical year for McNabb, who hasn't played an injury-free season since '04. Many fans have soured on him in recent years and plenty wanted him benched for a rookie (Kolb) last year. There was quite a bit of trade speculation during the offseason, but the Eagles are trying to make another run at a championship with McNabb before their window of opportunity closes.
There's no guarantee McNabb will be here beyond this season, even though he's signed through 2013. His base salary goes up to $9.2 million in 2009 from $6.3 million this season, and he's due to earn $52.4 million in the last four years of his contract.
"I'll be here," McNabb said.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press