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McNabb again Eagles' starter

Quarterback not worried about mobility after ankle injury.

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 8, 2003

PHILADELPHIA -- Donovan McNabb won't be afraid to scramble in his first game back from a broken ankle.

McNabb will start the Eagles' playoff game against the Falcons on Saturday night, his first action in nearly two months. The two-time Pro Bowl quarterback hasn't played since hurting his right ankle against the Cardinals on Nov.17.

"According to everyone else, I'm not mobile, I'm not able to move anymore," McNabb said Tuesday. "I'll just let people continue to think that, and when the time comes, make sure to showcase that a little. You run a lot faster when you don't want to get hit."

The Eagles were 7-3 with McNabb, who was having the best season of his career. McNabb completed 211 of 361 passes (58 percent) for 2,289 yards, 17 touchdowns and six interceptions. He ran for 460 and six TDs.

McNabb was injured on the third play of the Eagles win but stayed in and tied a career best with four TD passes. And he didn't scramble once.

Despite his success staying in the pocket, coach Andy Reid doesn't want McNabb to hesitate to run.

"I want him to execute the offense just like he's been doing over the years and probably be a little more mobile than he was in the Arizona game and just be Donovan. That's all I need," Reid said.

Without McNabb, Philadelphia went 5-1 behind Koy Detmer and A.J. Feeley, captured its second straight NFC East title and earned homefield advantage for the playoffs.

"When Donovan was hurt, I'd be foolish to say we didn't miss him," Reid said. "You're talking about a guy who was right there as the top player in the NFL. To say you don't miss a guy like that is silly. On the other hand, the other guys came in and did a great job. But to have him back, that's a positive."

McNabb practiced for the first time with the team last week, taking all the snaps in practice Thursday and Friday. He will have missed eight weeks since the injury when the Eagles play the Falcons at Veterans Stadium.

Standing on the sideline watching Detmer and Feeley helped McNabb.

"Just putting the ball in different spots and letting the receivers work, Koy definitely did that," McNabb said. "And A.J., to go in and let the running backs work, get it to the receivers and let them work and get the tight ends involved, that's something when you sit back and watch, knowing you're going back in there, you can use it to your advantage."

The Falcons had a mixed reaction when they heard that McNabb will start. Cornerback Ray Buchanan thinks McNabb will be limited.

"We'd probably rather see McNabb because he's not as mobile right now," Buchanan said. "I think if we play McNabb, we have a better chance."

Atlanta coach Dan Reeves disagreed.

"That's Ray's opinion," Reeves said. "That isn't my opinion."

McNabb isn't concerned that defenders might take a shot at his injured ankle. But some Falcons are worried about the extra dimension McNabb brings and won't be surprised if they see him scampering.

"He's more dangerous when he's scrambling around," free safety Keion Carpenter said. "I think he's at his best when he's scrambling around and he gets guys off their coverages and he hits people deep."

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