PHILADELPHIA -- Donovan McNabb feels the difference in his legs in the weight room. The more he trains, the more he feels like he's gaining strength in his surgically repaired knee.
Soon, that could mean a transformation on the field for the once fleet-footed quarterback.
McNabb has looked little this season like the daring scrambler he was in the first eight years of his career when the opposition was often unprepared for his escapability and big plays. Twice in his career he's averaged more than seven yards a carry and he rarely hesitated to run for a first down or make something amazing out of a busted play.
This season has seen a different -- sometimes slower -- McNabb in Philadelphia. Some of it comes with age and some of the sacks have been a result of a makeshift offensive line.
But McNabb knows the torn knee ligament suffered last November cost him a speedy step.
Only now, McNabb believes he's regaining his mobility and that could make a difference.
"It never was a speed deal for me," McNabb said on Wednesday. "I kind of used my strength of getting away from people and I still have that. When that burst, that pop comes back, not that I'll be running extremely fast when I come back, but I'll buy a little bit of time and get it to the guys."
McNabb is only averaging 2.5 yards a carry this season and has been sacked 20 times -- including a whopping 12 times in a loss against the New York Giants. The threat of the rush, especially inside the 20, has been all but eliminated as McNabb works his way back. When McNabb does scramble now, it's usually to buy some time for his receivers instead of taking off.
"I'm not a running back," McNabb said. "If nothing's there, I'll try to pick up what I can. I think in those (red zone) situations, it's just getting it to the guys and letting them get into the end zone."
In his first full season as a starter in 2000, McNabb ran 86 times for 629 yards. Two years later, he was on pace to surpass 700 yards rushing when he went down with a broken ankle.
Now, the 30-year-old McNabb is being chased down and hit by defensive linemen. About the only part of McNabb's game that hasn't been affected is his confidence.
"At this point, I feel like I can do everything," he said. "Maybe not to where it was last year, but I know what I can do, and I can do just about everything."
"I think one thing that people tend to forget, the NFC East championship comes through Philadelphia," McNabb said. "We have to protect our territory and we have enough time to do that."
Coach Andy Reid says he's fine with McNabb turning into a fulltime pocket passer. Reid credited McNabb for making at least three throws against the Jets on Sunday that most other quarterbacks couldn't make. Reid said McNabb is ahead of schedule -- the popular theory is that it takes a full year to return to full strength after a torn ACL -- and has done everything the Eagles wanted.
"I'm probably still faster than most of the quarterbacks out there," McNabb said.
While McNabb acknowledges his knee is not at 100 percent, he said "in due time it will be."
"This isn't an injury where once you feel like everything's OK, you just kind of stop," he said. "This is where you pick up the pace a little bit. You kind of pay more attention to it because you don't want to have a setback."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press