TORONTO - Was it just a year ago that Donovan McNabb was the NFL’s off-season story, the talk of the town, the soon-to-be saviour of the Washington Redskins?
Wasn’t it supposed to be one of the riskiest trades in history, a miscalculation of historic proportions for the Philadelphia Eagles, who were prepared to hand over their starting quarterback to a divisional rival and go with Kevin Kolb as their No. 1 pivot with a washed-up backup by the name of Michael Vick as insurance?
Well, we all know how that one turned out. How McNabb was the one who would look completely washed-up, playing for the historically dysfunctional Redskins and eventually end the season stapled to the bench. How Kolb would get injured and lose his job to Vick, who would go on to post an MVP-like season in perhaps the most unforeseen renaissance by a player in the past 20 years.
Everybody called that one, right?
Now, McNabb is back but, thankfully for him, no longer with the Redskins. Instead, he is in that safe haven for aging quarterbacks, the burrough of Minneapolis, the gravesite for quarterbacks on the down side of their career.
The past two seasons, the Vikings were the backdrop to the Brett Favre soap opera and, with McNabb, the question is: Do they have a quarterback who can offer them something of substance now while prized rookie Christian Ponder learns the ropes of being a professional NFL quarterback? Or, is he just the lead character in another chapter of How The World Turns?
Lots of things are happening in the Twin Cities these days.
To begin with, the Twins are not leading the AL Central at the moment and aren’t likely to by season’s end.
Favre is gone and, at the controls, is head coach Leslie Frazier, who took over from Brad Childress halfway through the 2010 season.
Squeezing out what talent is left in McNabb falls to Frazier, who will also have to gauge how quickly Ponder is or isn’t progressing.
Watching the Vikings, who came oh so close to being in the 2009 Super Bowl, and how they progress will be one of the more interesting storylines for 2011.
“The only thing I try to do with Donovan is just be honest,” Frazier told CBCSports.com. “I tell him that we need him for this time, and it’s up to him to see how long it goes.
“We want to see him have success. It’s not a thing where we’re hoping that, after this season, or some point in this season, he fails, and now we’re ready to go with Christian. We want to see him be successful this entire season because that means our team is successful.
“Christian’s time will come. We’re not going into this saying, ‘Okay, Christian’s going to be ready Week 6 or Week 8.’ We’re expecting success from Donovan.”
Which is just fine with McNabb, who surely will be driven this season to erase the embarrassment of his time with Washington.
“I don’t look at myself as a security blanket,” he said. “I look at myself as a guy they want to help win this thing in the next three or four years.”
Since signing with Minnesota, McNabb has stated over and over that he has nothing to prove. But even his new coach isn’t buying that.
“He may not say that, but I know there’s a chip on his shoulder,” Frazier said. “He’s a very prideful guy and he’s had a lot of success in our league. What happened the last couple of years kind of stung a little bit, so I expect us to be the beneficiaries of that.”
It’s hard to gauge at this juncture how much McNabb has left.
What’s easy to foresee is that, with the Vikings, his star will shine much brighter than last year with Washington.
Bubba Smith found dead
Former NFL star and movie actor Charles Aaron (Bubba) Smith has died, the Los Angeles Coroner’s Chief of Forensic Examinations said. He was 66.
The Los Angeles Times said that, according to police, there were no signs of foul play and that an autopsy would determine the cause of death.
Smith spent nine seasons in the NFL as a defensive end for the Baltimore Colts, Oakland Raiders and Houston Oilers from 1967-76. After his playing days, the 6-foot-7 Smith became an actor and was best known for his role as Moses Hightower in the Police Academy movies.
Too bad for Chad
Miami Dolphins fans are booing quarterback Chad Henne.
Earlier this week, at an open practice, one that the Dolphins believed was a goodwill gesture given the NFL’s lockout and all, several fans started to give it to Henne, serenading him with chants of: “We want Orton!” in reference to reports that the Dolphins had attempted to land Denver’s Kyle Orton.
Apparently, that was just too much for Miami coach Tony Sparano.
“It really makes me sick,” Sparano told reporters Wednesday. “When people come to the stadium like that in one of those kind of events to support the Miami Dolphins, that’s what we should be thinking about.”
All it took for the fans to turn on Henne was a couple of errant passes.
But given the violent nature of the game, it’s kind of odd and almost embarrassing that Sparano felt he had to rise to Henne’s defence over some jeering.
“I’m not worried about how it affects anybody,” Sparano said. “We’re all big boys here.”
But if he felt that way, why bring it up?
Bulger gives up easy gig
Marc Bulger has called it quits.
At age 34, the veteran quarterback, who last season was backup to the Baltimore Ravens’ Joe Flacco, said that he has had enough, that he felt it was time to pack it in.
In doing so, Bulger waved goodbye to a pretty sweet job. As the backup to Flacco, Bulger earned $3.8 million US, held a clipboard and never played a down. That’s a pretty good gig.
But despite receiving interest from several teams this off-season, he didn’t bite.
In his prime, Bulger was better than most. Over 11 NFL seasons, he made two Pro Bowl appearances.
Bulger’s best seasons came in St. Louis when, in 2003, he took over for the injured Kurt Warner, led the Rams to a 12-4 record and a quarterback controversy that eventually led to Warner being released by the Rams.
In assessing Bulger’s future in June, Warner opined that Bulger may have found a niche as a veteran backup.
“He can just enjoy life and not have to worry about the pressure of being an NFL starter and everything that goes with it,” Warner said.
Bulger, though, took it a step further and retired.
Over his career, he passed for 22,814 yards and threw 93 touchdowns.
Close call for Eagle
The Philadelphia Eagles and defensive tackle Mike Patterson both breathed a sigh of relief Wednesday after he recovered from a seizure he suffered at training camp at Lehigh University.
During a morning practice, the 6-foot-1, 300-pound Patterson collapsed to the ground, lost consciousness and went into a seizure as he was shaking violently.
Patterson was immediately attended to by trainer Rick Burkholder and whisked to Lehigh Valley Hospital.
“He’s absolutely alert, stable, totally communicating with everybody, even joking a little bit,” Burkholder later told reporters. “We won’t speculate what happened to him, other than he had a seizure. It could be anything. We don’t even want to speculate what might have happened.”
Patterson, 28, was the 31st pick of the Eagles in the first round of the 2005 draft and has played in 95 regular season games. He’s never missed a game because of injury in six NFL seasons and Burkholder added that Patterson had no history of seizures.
In his career, he has made 13 sacks with one interception. He does hold one NFL record as his 98-yard fumble return for a touchdown against San Francisco in 2006 is the longest in NFL history by a defensive tackle.
Giants, linemen digging in
No deal, no trade, no nothing.
Just one loud continuous “No!”
That, apparently, is what New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora and his agent, Tony Agnone, are hearing from the other NFL teams in their quest to uncover one that is interested in obtaining his services in a trade with the Giants.
Disgruntled with the terms of his contract, a six-year, $41-million extension he signed in 2005 and one that has $7.1 million remaining over its final two years, Umenyiora was given permission by the Giants to see if he could find a team that would meet their demands.
But those demands — a first-round pick — are proving to be too steep a price for any other team to contemplate.
So, now the Giants are saying to stop the trade talk and get back to work.
The problem is that Umenyiora has told them he will not play for them for what he is getting paid, but is open to a new deal, one where he is paid a lot more money.
So, at the present it’s the old Mexican standoff although meetings between the sides are planned.
Rogers gets fresh start with 49ers
Carlos Rogers has never quite lived up to his billing after the Auburn star defensive back was made a first-round pick of the Washington Redskins in 2005. Now, however, he is the apple of the San Francisco 49ers’ eye.
It’s been a lucrative off-season for cornerbacks such as the Raiders Nnamdi Asomugha, Pittsburgh’s Ike Taylor and Antonio Cromartie of the Jets, all of whom signed multi-year, multi-million dollar contracts.
Rogers, however, is not seen as being at that same level of ball-hawking machine and received just a one-year deal.
With DeAngelo Hall on the other side at Washington, teams would often target Rogers area but, even then, over his six-year career, he has totalled just eight interceptions. The knock on him was that he had hands of stone.
With San Francisco, he is being looked at as a starter and will play opposite Shawntae Spencer.
The secondary was definitely a weak spot for the 49ers and in need of an upgrade as last season they ranked 24th in pass defence.
In 12 starts with Washington last season, Rogers recorded 54 tackles, one forced fumble and made two interceptions.
Eric Mangini, the former head coach of the Cleveland Browns, is back among the employed, but not in a coaching capacity. Instead he has taken the well-travelled route of being a studio analyst for ESPN ... The New York Jets are willing to bring wide receiver Braylon Edwards back but only on their terms. “If Braylon wants to come back for what we want to pay, come on back, Braylon,” head coach Rex Ryan said Wednesday.