BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Donovan McNabb says he doesn't need to be completely healthy to be a force in the NFL.
McNabb took part in the first practice of Eagles training camp Saturday, more than eight months after he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee against Tennessee.
"I'd say it's still about 75 percent," McNabb said of his knee. "I haven't tested it yet, but I can do everything I need to do in order to be successful. At 75 percent, I personally feel I can be one of the best quarterbacks in the league."
McNabb was just that last season before suffering the injury. The five-time Pro Bowler was second in the NFL with 2,534 yards passing, tied for second with 17 touchdown passes, and sixth with a 96.6 passer rating.
During minicamp six weeks ago, the Eagles' ninth-year quarterback gauged his knee at 70-75 percent. Although he doesn't appear hindered in practice, the Eagles do not plan to rush his return and have not decided whether he will play in their preseason opener against Baltimore on Aug. 13.
"I'm not in any hurry to push him into the first preseason game," coach Andy Reid said.
"You want to play a whole game, but in the preseason you've got to be smart," McNabb said. "For the way that we practice out here competing against our defense, it prepares you for game situations. When you come off of injuries, you don't want to rush things."
McNabb has had three major injuries in the last five seasons. He missed the final seven games of the 2005 season with a sports hernia, and in 2002 missed the final six regular-season games with a broken ankle.
"I came back after my ankle and my groin - you know how to prepare for it," McNabb said. "Coming into this situation, I know what I have to do once I step on the field: be patient."
McNabb is wearing a protective brace on the knee, although he did not use one in minicamp or in his annual workouts in Arizona.
"You have to continue to stay protective, and if I can continue to wear it and it doesn't bother me, I'll continue to wear it through the whole season," McNabb said.
"Mentally you have to know that the knee is fine. That's kind of the whole process you go through -- not just strengthening it through the weight room and continuing to stay flexible. You have to continue to prepare yourself mentally for what you'll be faced with."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press