How Much Can The Eagles Protect McNabb?

Donovan McNabb knows that he's not fully recovered from knee surgery that cut his 2006 season short. He also knows that even at less than 100% he can help the Eagles and he'll just have to prove how much he can do and how healthy he is.

Is Donovan McNabb realistic? Well, that's open to interpretation. He puts his recovery from knee surgery at 75% and insists that even at that level, he's able to be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Talent wise, McNabb may be right, but there is more to consider.

At 75%, can McNabb's knee withstand the physical abuse that it's likely to take even in pre-season action? Let's face it, opposing players aren't going to go easy on him just because he's not completely up to speed. And especially once the regular season begins, there will be nowhere to hide for McNabb.

A close up look at the brace that Donovan McNabb is wearing and the scars that surgery has left on his knee. (AP/Rusty Kennedy)
Andy Reid insists that there is no specific time table for McNabb to be unleashed. For now, they're being extremely cautious with their star quarterback and taking every precaution possible. When rain forced the Birds practice indoors, McNabb was held out of practice because of the hard surface and the fear of a possible slip or fall. The knee brace that McNabb insists he can practice without is an ever present piece of standard equipment these days. In fact, it may stay in place even once the season begins, at least until McNabb feels completely confident that he can withstand the blows that he's likely to take from time to time.

The other day, McNabb stopped short of calling the brace a security blanket. "I worked all off-season without a brace," explained McNabb. "I'm not looking at it as a security blanket, I'm just trying to be protective." Right now, the Eagles should be double-checking that brace every day to be sure it's able to hold up, because there is no Jeff Garcia to fall back on should anything happen to McNabb.

Yhe Eagles will treat him with kid gloves during camp and the pre-season to make sure he's ready for the Septrmnrt 9 opener against Green Bay. Both the team and McNabb have indicated that they'll let his knee dictate how much he does between now and the season opener.

"We have to stick to reality," he said. "We never know what may happen. You're trying to eliminate as many setbacks as possible. You just want to continue to be smart with it. If that means the leg is not where I want it to be, then that means I may not practice. Or the exhibition games come around and I'm not ready, I will not play," insists McNabb.

For now though, the recovery is near miraculous and is a testament to McNabb's rehab work. He put in every effort this off-season to make the knee as strong as it could be and he has himself ahead of schedule on the road to recovery. The Eagles quarterback also is thankful that he was able to take part in the mini-camp to get a dry run of what he could do on a football field. "I got an opportunity to get a great feel for how my knee will respond, taking reps and dropping back consistently, moving around in the pocket, carrying the ball out, or getting out of the pocket and running," said McNabb. "You want to see how your leg holds up. The strength is definitely there."

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Donovan McNabb talks about the brace he's wearing in training camp:

During the off-season, McNabb trained without the knee brace and he was asked why. In this cut, McNabb explains why and the mental aspect of getting over a knee injury:

McNabb's recovery hasn't been without rough spots and there are likely more ahead. Here, he talks about the hurdles that he's overcome and the ones that he may face down the road:

So, where does McNabb put his progress and is it good enough for him to compete?

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