Memo to Donovan McNabb: Play...Even If It Hurts

Ron GloverSenior Analyst INovember 23, 2007

IconLately, Donovan McNabb's career has been playing out like the movie Groundhog Day.

For the fourth November in six seasons, McNabb is injured to the point where he may miss action.

McNabb hurt his ankle in last week's 17-7 victory over the winless Miami Dolphins. Since then, it has been revealed that McNabb has also injured the thumb on his throwing hand.

These injuries have concerned coach Andy Reid enough to hold his signal caller out of every practice this week—and to consider starting backup A.J. Feeley on Sunday.

And by the way:

The Eagles travel to New England this weekend to face the undefeated Patriots, who've made mincemeat of their opponents so far this season.

Vegas has the Eagles as 22.5-point underdogs—and that's with McNabb listed as the starter. 

That said, I'm not as sold on the Patriots defense as everyone else is. Sure, they only give up an average of 15.7 points a game—but they can be scored on.

The Dolphins put up 28 on the Pats—more than both the Colts and Cowboys. If the Eagles put together an offensive package than can take time off the clock, they might be able to keep things close.

And injured or not, McNabb has to play this game—for a number of reasons.

Barring some miracle, McNabb's days in midnight green are numbered. He's in audition mode right now, and there are a handful of teams watching to see how things play out in these final weeks.

In my opinion, his ankle injury isn't serious, which means Donovan should be mobile enough to buy himself time to throw. If his thumb is functional on even intermediate passes, he should be in the game.

The Birds are 5-5, and miraculously just one game out of an NFC Wild Card spot. The Eagles still have something to play for, in other words—and going with Feeley if Donovan is able to play sends the wrong message.

In Philadelphia, the dominant perception of McNabb is that he's a soft player. He didn't help his reputation last week by running in place and looking for someone to throw the ball to after he'd allegedly injured his ankle.

Now the Eagles are saying that a heretofore unreported thumb injury might prevent Donovan from playing in a significant midseason matchup with playoff implications. This could be the last straw for a fanbase already clamoring for Feeley or Kevin Kolb.

Unfair as it may be, sitting out the biggest game of the season while standing upright on the sidelines would seal McNabb's fate in Philadelphia.