PHILADELPHIA -- Donovan McNabb smiled when a reporter asked for his opinion on the upcoming opponent and pumped his fist when the next question was about his poor start.
Once the topic switched to McNabb's comment about black quarterbacks, his mood changed quickly.
In a bizarre interview that ended with McNabb walking off the podium at the Philadelphia Eagles practice facility on Wednesday, the five-time Pro Bowl quarterback reiterated the statement he made on HBO that black QBs face greater scrutiny than their white counterparts.
"It's just reality," McNabb said. "It's something that I've been a part of and other quarterbacks before and after me have been a part of. Did I expect any backlash? Yeah. Everything I say, I expect backlash from it."
McNabb displayed a variety of emotions while getting peppered with questions on the race issue. He was perplexed and defensive -- and looked more uncomfortable than he does standing in the pocket on his surgically repaired knee under a heavy rush.
"People are trying to dig too deep in this whole situation," he said. "I wasn't pinpointing particular people. What I said was the fact that we (black QBs) have to do a little extra. No matter the style of play you're displaying, there's always going to be criticism."
Asked if any quarterback was criticized more than Chicago's Rex Grossman last year, McNabb said: "I wouldn't know."
He then mentioned Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer, Tom Brady, Hall of Famer Steve Young and Jake Plummer.
"I never said Peyton doesn't get criticized. I never said Carson doesn't get criticized. I never said Tom doesn't get criticized, because they do," McNabb said. "They talked about Peyton not winning the big game. They talked about Tom Brady and his baby and girlfriend. We get criticized a little differently."
Pressed for specific examples, McNabb pointed to being a running quarterback.
"Nobody ever talked to Steve Young about the running quarterback situation and Jake Plummer," he said.
McNabb has always been sensitive about being labeled a running quarterback. He considers himself someone who passes first and runs only out of necessity.
"You wouldn't ask somebody else the questions we get asked," McNabb said, declining to reveal those questions.
The 30-year-old McNabb is in his ninth season with the Eagles after he was selected with the No. 2 pick in the 1999 draft. He's one of six black starting quarterbacks in the NFL. The others are David Garrard of Jacksonville, Vince Young of Tennessee, Steve McNair of Baltimore, Jason Campbell of Washington and Tarvaris Jackson of Minnesota.
Less than 10 months since having surgery for a torn knee ligament, McNabb wasn't sharp in Philadelphia's first two games. He's completed just 54.4 percent of his passes for 424 yards, one touchdown and one interception. His passer rating of 68.8 is 24th in the league. And he's not scrambling like he used to because of the injury.
McNabb misfired badly on some throws against the Redskins, though he played better in the fourth quarter. Fans booed him during the game and some are even calling for rookie Kevin Kolb to be the starter.
The interview on HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" took place in August, but was broadcast Tuesday night.
"If a question is asked, I'm going to answer it," McNabb said. "I didn't bring it up. The interview wasn't about black-white issues, it was about my life. I didn't do the interview 30 minutes after the game. The tease everybody has seen, they blew it way out of proportion."
"I don't think anybody's worried about that," Reid said. "They're worried about playing the game. That's where our focus is."
Several teammates declined to discuss the matter, though All-Pro safety Brian Dawkins supported McNabb's comment.
"On a whole, that's a fair assessment," Dawkins said.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved