McNabb trade sends message to veterans

The Vikings' veterans know that the Donovan McNabb trade ups the ante for the 2011 Vikings. They can't call it a rebuilding year, and that's exactly the way head coach Leslie Frazier wants it. Judging by players' reaction at training camp, they got the message.

Donovan McNabb reported to Vikings camp at Minnesota State University-Mankato relaxed and all smiles.

He said he wants to play five or six more years and said he is in great shape.

"I would take my shirt off, but I really don't want to get people too excited about my results right now," he joked.

All jokes aside, his acquisition sent a serious message to the Vikings' veterans: The expectations are to win now, not go into rebuilding mode.

"The players that know me and are familiar with me – they're not surprised by this move. They know how important it is from my standpoint that we look at this business, this season as a new season and the fact that we're in the hunt," head coach Leslie Frazier said after arriving in Mankato Sunday afternoon. "I don't think that most of our guys that have been here are surprised. When we sit down and talk (Sunday) night, I will reiterate the fact that we're not in a rebuilding mode. I don't think any of those guys believe that anyway. They're looking forward to competing for the NFC North championship."

The Vikings face some stiff competition. Chicago won the division last year, and Green Bay won the Super Bowl while the Detroit Lions appear to be an improving team as well. But Frazier has consistently fended off implications that his team is in rebuilding mode, despite a 6-10 record in 2010.

Trading for McNabb was a clear message of Frazier's intents, and the veterans appear to have received that message even before Frazier addressed them.

"A lot of times in the NFL, 6-10 can be 10-6 in just like a few minutes of play. It's going to be about finishing drives and finishing series and I think realistically we could be .500 or better for sure," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "We're going to hope for 10-12 wins, that's what we're going to play for obviously. I think we have the personnel to do that."

Instead of relying on first-round draft pick Christian Ponder, who arrived in Mankato never having been through an NFL practice, or second-year player Joe Webb, who started two games at quarterback last year after being drafted to play receiver, McNabb offers the team a veteran with 155 regular-season starts and seven playoff appearances.

"He's definitely a spirited guy, a competitor and wants to win. I think it's good," said Steve Hutchinson, who knows McNabb from a couple of Pro Bowl appearances together. "Take nothing away from Christian, but it's hard to come in as a rookie in this league and start when you have an entire offseason and get the playbook and work with the coaches and have OTAs and stuff. Coming in here and taking his first snap under center 12 days, 13 days before the first [preseason] game is a little unrealistic. Donovan, he can still play at a very high level and I think everybody is excited to have him."

McNabb has a 97-57-1 record as a regular-season starter and has a 2-to-1 touchdown-to-interception percentage. Having him gives the Vikings a shot at competing with teams in the division that already have established quarterbacks like the Packers' Aaron Rodgers and the Bears' Jay Cutler.

"We've played him in the past so that's always a good thing when you bring a guy like that in. He's very competitive, he's going to be very good," Greenway said. "Obviously, we draft Christian and this is sort of the bridge to Christian – I'm guessing [that] eventually is the plan. But Donovan is a great player and he's got years left in the tank for sure so we're excited about that."

Greenway said it would have been "interesting" if the Vikings tried to go into training camp with a rookie atop the quarterback depth chart, especially since players weren't able to practice during the offseason in front of Vikings coaches. Now, with a veteran quarterback with McNabb's accomplishments, Greenway said the Minnesota can sneak up on some teams.
The Vikings know all too well that being the favorite doesn't always pan out, even with a veteran quarterback (see: Brett Favre, 2010). But they also know having McNabb ups the ante. His signing can hinder talk of rebuilding.

"I think that's the main focus. We still have a few important pieces here and we're trying to win right now," Williams said. "We might have been taking a step back if we had to start a rookie this year. Not saying he couldn't do it, but this league is going off of proven quarterbacks. You see them win every year. To have McNabb come in and tutor him, it's going to help us out in the future."


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



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I don't think any of those guys believe that anyway. They're looking forward to competing for the NFC North championship.\" The Vikings face some stiff competition. Chicago won the division last year, and Green Bay won the Super Bowl while the Detroit Lions appear to be an improving team as well. But Frazier has consistently fended off implications that his team is in rebuilding mode, despite a 6-10 record in 2010. Trading for McNabb was a clear message of Frazier's intents, and the veterans appear to have received that message even before Frazier addressed them. \"A lot of times in the NFL, 6-10 can be 10-6 in just like a few minutes of play. It's going to be about finishing drives and finishing series and I think realistically we could be .500 or better for sure,\" linebacker Chad Greenway said. \"We're going to hope for 10-12 wins, that's what we're going to play for obviously. I think we have the personnel to do that.\" Instead of relying on first-round draft pick Christian Ponder, who arrived in Mankato never having been through an NFL practice, or second-year player Joe Webb, who started two games at quarterback last year after being drafted to play receiver, McNabb offers the team a veteran with 155 regular-season starts and seven playoff appearances. \"He's definitely a spirited guy, a competitor and wants to win. I think it's good,\" said Steve Hutchinson, who knows McNabb from a couple of Pro Bowl appearances together. \"Take nothing away from Christian, but it's hard to come in as a rookie in this league and start when you have an entire offseason and get the playbook and work with the coaches and have OTAs and stuff. Coming in here and taking his first snap under center 12 days, 13 days before the first [preseason] game is a little unrealistic. 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