New questions for McNabb as Redskins host Eagles

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) - November 14, 2010

Now, ahead of the rematch, he's deflecting questions about his own team.

McNabb vs. The Eagles Part II has become a very different kind of sequel.

After Washingon's last game - which could have been called McNabb and the Bizarre Benching - there's no telling what to expect when its quarterback leads the Redskins against Philadelphia on Monday night in his first game since the veteran was yanked in the final minutes of a loss to Detroit.

Need more evidence of quickly shifting sands? Michael Vick was knocked out of that first Redskins game, his ribs squished when he was sandwiched between Kareem Moore and DeAngelo Hall while making a dash toward the goal line in the first quarter. The Redskins won 17-12 and moved into a tie for first in the NFC East.

A month later, Vick is not only back - he's the NFL's top-rated quarterback and the reigning NFC offensive player of the week. The Eagles (5-3) and New York Giants (6-2) are at the top of the division, and the Redskins (4-4) can't afford to lose much more ground.

At the beginning of the season, it was a safe bet to think Vick would play out his contract in Philadelphia as a backup to Kevin Kolb and then go elsewhere, while McNabb would sign a contract extension and stay in Washington for a while. Now there's reason to believe the opposite: Vick re-signs with the Eagles, while McNabb bids the Redskins goodbye.

That's the sort of fallout that can result from one move: Washington coach Mike Shanahan's decision to replace a six-time Pro Bowl quarterback with Rex Grossman with the game in the balance against the Lions. The uproar got so bad that Shanahan eschewed the usual coaches' taboo and actually used to the D-word when talking about the whole episode.

"A lot of distractions," he said. "We've fought through it as a group, and we're ready to go on."

There are indeed eight more games ahead, plenty of time for perceptions to change again. McNabb has been benched once before in his career: Nov. 23, 2008, when he threw two interceptions and lost a fumble before getting pulled at halftime of the Eagles' 36-7 loss at Baltimore. He started the following week against Arizona and threw four touchdown passes, the start of a 4-1 stretch run that put Philadelphia back into the playoffs.

"It was a whole team effort. We all weren't playing well," said Eagles tight end Brent Celek, recalling the series of events. "When it happened, it's kind of like, 'We've got to rally behind him and start playing better, because this isn't just his fault.' And I think as a team we did that."

Redskins running back Clinton Portis voiced a similar sentiment this week. While McNabb hasn't been playing well - his 76.0 rating is his worst since he was a rookie - the rest of the offense is one problem after another. McNabb has been sacked 22 times, tied for second most in the NFL, and there's no reliable wideout beyond Santana Moss and Anthony Armstrong.

"You can't ask Donovan to put all of this on his shoulders," said Portis, who has been reduced to interested spectator while nursing a groin injury. "There's other guys around him that have got to help. We've got to take all the pressure off of him. I think Donovan, when comfortable and can sit in the pocket and make the right read, he's spectacular, and I think we've just got to allow him that time."

While Shanahan has come off poorly in his attempts to explaining the benching, McNabb has done his best to take the high road. All eyes will be on him if the Redskins end up in any sort of 2-minute situation Monday night, but he denied any sort of extra excitement or motivation heading into the game.

"When I step out on the field, I already have that adrenaline high," he said.

But that's the stance he took before playing the Eagles in October. Afterward, however, he revealed more of his true feelings when he took a swipe at his old team while accepting the game ball in the locker room.

"Everybody makes mistakes in their lifetime," McNabb said. "And they made one last year."

Given the way Vick and McNabb are playing, that verdict looks a bit premature.

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