Philadelphia Eagles News

Players React To McNabb Benching

BALTIMORE -- When quarterback Kevin Kolb walked around the locker room after Sunday's 36-7 loss in Baltimore and apologized to all of his teammates for his performance, his reaction caught the eyes and the ears of cornerback Sheldon Brown.

Brown remembers what it was like at the start of the 2004 season when he and fellow corner Lito Sheppard were asked to fill the shoes of two outstanding Pro Bowl players in Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor. Brown looked at how Kolb told all of his teammates that he would improve his game and continue to fight. Brown believes that if Kolb can keep an underdog mentality, he'll always come out ahead.

"No matter what he does, it's going to be successful because the fans aren't giving you a chance anyway,"" Brown said. ""When myself and Lito stepped in, everybody were saying we were too short or this or that. You want to be an underdog. To this day, I'm still trying to prove people wrong and tell them, 'I told you so.' As long as he takes that approach, which I think he will, he'll never look back. He'll always look forward."

Reaction to the benching of Donovan McNabb for Kevin Kolb in the second half was widespread. A number of players, including rookie wide receiver DeSean Jackson, were shocked to see the sight of Kolb taking snaps under center Jamaal Jackson just before kickoff.

"It kind of threw me off a little bit," Jackson said. "It's a tough situation for McNabb and for us as a team. He's been our quarterback. That's all we know. It kind of caught me off-guard … No matter who is out there, that's who we have to play with. As a team, we're doing everything we need to do to win a football game. It's nothing against Donovan, things just were going the way we expected. I feel like Coach (Andy) Reid or whoever makes the decision just wanted us to try to start fresh and let Kolb get in there and get a chance to makes some plays."

Brown also echoed those remarks saying that the move was nothing more than trying to get Kolb into the game.

Offensive tackle Jon Runyan, who has blocked for McNabb since the 2000 season, said that the Eagles were simply at the point where they had to try anything to create a spark.

"It's a decision you have to live with," Runyan said. "You're not going to win many games giving the ball to the other team. You have to make a change and try to make something happen."

Over the last nine quarters of football, the Eagles have scored just one touchdown on offense. The Eagles' only points on Sunday came on a 100-yard kickoff return by Quintin Demps. McNabb was 8-of-18 for 59 yards with a pair of interceptions and a lost fumble. Kolb was 10-of-23 for 73 yards and a pair of interceptions. The Eagles finished with a combined QB rating of 12.5.

Jackson and the rest of the receivers are the players most impacted by the man who is running the offense. Third-year receiver Jason Avant said it was tough to see McNabb benched, but at the same time he was happy for Kolb to get an opportunity to display his wares.

"As a receiver, you love both of those guys. We would go to war with either one of those guys," Avant said. "It was an opportunity for Kevin. We just rolled with it. It's nothing that you can prepare for. It just happened. We go through hard rimes. It seems like at times the things that we love the most can hurt us the most. (McNabb's) a fighter and I have all the confidence in the world that he'll come back."

GAITHER, SMITH REACT TO THEIR OWN LINEUP CHANGES

McNabb was not the only player benched Sunday.

Omar Gaither, the starting weakside linebacker since the beginning of the year, and tight end L.J. Smith were also handed lesser roles in Sunday's game.

Gaither was relegated to special teams duty in favor of Akeem Jordan, who had been the team's most productive special teams player this season. Jordan stepped up and made a team-high nine tackles, including two for a loss.

"I found out Tuesday that I wasn't going to be starting this week," Gaither said. "All I can do is keep working hard. It's tough. I've been out there with them all year fighting. To tell you that you can't play, that you can't start, it's tough, but I'm not the coach. I just have to do what I'm told. I went out on special teams and gave it my all.

"I don't think I was a scapegoat either. You make decisions based on what you think is best for the team. Akeem's a good player. It not like he's just putting anybody in there."

Smith was still involved with the offense, even though second-year man Brent Celek started in his place. However, he was not involved as much as he would like or as much as he expected to be. He finished with one catch for three yards.

"Me and Coach (Reid) talked a little bit about it. I thought I was going to play a little bit more than I did," Smith said.

Gaither entered the game fifth on the team in tackles with 62 tackles. Last year, as the middle linebacker, Gaither led the squad with 170 tackles and 14 QB hurries.

Smith, a second-round pick in 2003, is playing this season under the franchise tag after an injury-marred 2007 campaign. Since becoming the full-time starter in 2005, Smith has 152 receptions and 12 touchdowns.

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