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Around the NFC

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 3, 2003

EAGLES: Donovan McNabb practiced for the first time since breaking his right ankle Nov. 17. Coach Andy Reid said his quarterback took all reps with the first-team offense in a short practice. Asked if he can play next weekend, McNabb said: "I have no doubt in my mind."

But Reid was reluctant to announce who will start. "We'll see how he feels tomorrow after sleeping on it," he said. "We'll see if he has soreness, swelling. He's getting better every day, he's making progress."

Receiver Antonio Freeman was happy to have McNabb back in the lineup. Or was he?

"He's our leader. It's great to have our leader out there. We're a better team with No. 4," Freeman said.

Oops. Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre is No. 4. McNabb wears No. 5. Freeman was released by the Packers for salary-cap reasons after the 2001 season.

"Four, five, they all run together," Freeman said.

Freeman and Favre were the top active touchdown tandem in the league with 57 scores, fifth all-time.

* * *

NINERS: Kick returner Vinny Sutherland was re-signed and linebacker Jamie Winborn placed on injured reserve. Sutherland set a franchise rookie record in 2001 with 1,121 return yards on kickoffs, but was cut Aug. 27 -- three months after he was arrested when he drove his car into two light posts in Saratoga.

He pleaded no contest to hit-and-run and drunken driving charges Oct. 7, spending time in a substance-abuse treatment clinic. Sutherland spent three weeks with the Bears, returning three kickoffs for 49 yards, and was released.

Winborn made 16 tackles as a starter in the opening win over the Giants, but he injured ligaments in his left knee in the win over Washington Sept. 22. He had surgery three weeks ago.

Safety Zack Bronson, who missed the past 11 games with a broken right foot, will return to the starting defense Sunday against the Giants. He had 21 tackles and three interceptions in the first five games.

* * *

PACKERS: Donald Driver returned to practice and was the only Packer in full pads as he tested his injured right shoulder. The team's leading receiver caught a pass from Brett Favre, but when he reached for another, he dropped it.

"I had to go out there and practice today just to get the feel of what it'd be like if I did play Saturday," Driver said.

Though the Packers described his injury as a bruised and strained right shoulder, Driver said it was partially dislocated when he was driven into the grass Sunday at Giants Stadium. The shoulder popped out of the socket when he went down, and it popped back in when he rolled over.

Coach Mike Sherman said he remained cautiously optimistic that Driver, who caught 70 passes for 1,064 yards and nine touchdowns in his first season as a starter, will play.

"We have to evaluate it ... and see what his range of motion is going to be," Sherman said. "He wasn't challenged too much. He didn't fall on it. He did have his pads on. We tried to give him a little bit of contact. But we'll just have to wait and see."

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