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McNabb faces pass rush in first practice since injury

BETHLEHEM, Pa. (AP) - Donovan McNabb felt the pressure, escaped the rush, scrambled to his right and completed a pass.

Same old McNabb.

Training camp 2007's training camp tour:

Despite a bulky knee brace protecting his surgically repaired right knee, the five-time Pro Bowl quarterback had no problems facing a pass rush for the first time Wednesday.

Sure, McNabb wore a red jersey, meaning defensive players couldn't actually touch him. But so did the other quarterbacks.

Still, he moved around the pocket well and threw crisp passes to his targets during the Philadelphia Eagles' first full practice in pads. McNabb even jumped into a receivers drill at one point and ran a route, drawing cheers from a huge crowd gathered at Lehigh University.

"It's just going out and executing," McNabb said. "I've gotten the opportunity to do it for months, getting back, moving in the pocket, getting out of the pocket. So in this situation, it's just going out and being able to put the ball in a position for guys to make plays for us."

If McNabb favored his knee in any way, it didn't affect his arm strength.

"His first pass almost knocked me down," said wideout Kevin Curtis, a key free-agent acquisition.

Reggie Brown, entering his third season catching passes from McNabb, doesn't see any difference.

"He looks like Donovan," Brown said. "He looks good."

Coach Andy Reid maintained throughout minicamps that McNabb was sharp. He was encouraged by his performance in live drills.

"He's very strong and feels good," Reid said. "His arm looks great. I thought it was very important that he got the rush. He was very calm back there and really trusted the offensive line. I thought that was a big step for him."

McNabb hasn't played in a game since he tore a knee ligament against the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 19. Reid isn't going to rush him back for the preseason opener at Baltimore on Aug. 13.

Before he was injured, McNabb was having one of his best statistical seasons. He had 2,647 yards passing and 18 touchdowns for a quarterback rating of 95.5 in 10 games, though the Eagles were 5-5.

While McNabb rehabbed, his replacement filled in nicely. Jeff Garcia led the Eagles to five straight wins down the stretch, an NFC East title and a playoff victory.

Garcia also won over the tough Philly fans with his fiery personality and hard-nosed attitude. But management decided to let Garcia test free agency, and he ended up in Tampa Bay.

Without naming his former backup, McNabb made it clear he won't change his style to please others.

"I'm the leader of this team," McNabb said. "It's great that everybody kind of assumed a role after I went out, because somebody has to do it. I think in a lot of ways, I handle the leadership role a little different than others. I'm not going to rah-rah or slap you across the helmet or push you. I'm going to talk to you.

"We're all professionals, and we're all men. You don't really need anybody to sit there and get in your head and tell you what to do."


CB Lito Sheppard sat out the afternoon practice with back spasms. ... TE L.J. Smith, who had surgery for a sports hernia in the offseason, practiced both sessions. ... CB Sheldon Brown delivered a hard hit on WR Hank Baskett late in the morning practice.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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