Injured McNabb misses Eagles practice

PHILADELPHIA -- Donovan McNabb didn't need a cane or crutches to walk around, and he joked that ballet dancing was part of his rehab routine.

His sense of humor is intact, though a gimpy ankle and sore thumb could keep the five-time Pro Bowl quarterback on the sideline when the Eagles visit New England on Sunday.

McNabb didn't practice Wednesday because of a sprained right ankle and a swollen thumb sustained in Philadelphia's 17-7 win over Miami. McNabb hurt the thumb on his throwing hand early and left after injuring his ankle in the second quarter.

A.J. Feeley led the Eagles to a pair of touchdowns and would start against the Patriots if McNabb can't play.

"You want to have all of your faculties intact before you get back out and be competitive again," McNabb said. "You want to be smart, but you also want to go out there and play."

McNabb didn't have a noticeable limp when he chatted briefly with reporters at his weekly news conference. He then headed to the trainer's room for more rehab.

Coach Andy Reid said McNabb's ankle swelled up Tuesday. A day earlier, it seemed the thumb injury was more of a concern.

"Right now the ankle is a little more swollen than the thumb," Reid said. "We'll take it day by day and see how he goes."

McNabb was hurt almost one year to the day he tore a knee ligament against Tennessee. He rehabbed vigorously following that injury, returned well ahead of schedule and started every game this season. A feared scrambler, McNabb was just starting to regain his speed and mobility when he went down again.

It's the fourth time in six years McNabb has been hurt shortly before Thanksgiving. He didn't return in the regular season the first three times, missing a total of 19 games. The Eagles were 12-7 in those games, and 1-1 in the playoffs without him last year.

The Eagles (5-5) are a 22-point underdog against the unbeaten Patriots (10-0), so it might not make a difference who plays quarterback. McNabb dismissed the idea he'd sit out to get ready for important home games against Seattle and the New York Giants the first two weeks in December.

"I don't believe in conserving yourself," McNabb said. "I don't believe in sitting back and waiting for another team or sitting out trying to get yourself ready for next week."

It's possible McNabb could start Sunday without practicing the rest of the week. Running back Brian Westbrook often plays despite missing practice, including last week when he had a career-best 148 yards rushing against Miami.

"I'm comfortable with it," McNabb said. "It works for other players. Maybe I'll try it. In my position, it's important to work with receivers to get your timing down."

Westbrook agreed.

"He knows what he's doing and I don't doubt that he'll know the game plan inside and out," Westbrook said. "The major difference with a quarterback not practicing is he has to get his timing down with other receivers."

Feeley started the last five games in 2002 after McNabb broke his ankle and backup Koy Detmer got hurt. He went 4-1 and led Philly to first place in the NFC before McNabb returned for the playoffs.

Feeley completed 13 of 19 passes for 116 yards, one touchdown and one interception against the Dolphins in his first action since the regular-season finale last year.

"It's nothing out of the ordinary," Feeley said. "It's what I do as a backup. You never know if you're going to play."

Though numbers say the Eagles run the ball more when McNabb doesn't play, Feeley and Reid insist the offense stays the same.

"We wouldn't change anything," Reid said. "It's the same game plan with or without Donovan."

Besides McNabb, strong safety Quintin Mikell missed practice with a sprained knee ligament. If Mikell can't play, third-string safety J.R. Reed would start his first meaningful game.

"It's a great opportunity for me to step in and play," said Reed, whose career nearly ended because of a freak injury in 2005.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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