Philadelphia The Eagles and Donovan McNabb are making a crucial mistake.
McNabb has a sports hernia, a chronic lower abdominal strain that is causing the quarterback great discomfort, will not get better with rest, and certainly will not get better with more work. The only way to cure the problem, according to team trainer Rick Burkholder, is for McNabb to have surgery.
McNabb doesn't want surgery. He says he can play with the pain, can complete the season, can do his best to get the Eagles to Super Bowl XL.
Led by coach Andy Reid, the team has decided to trust its player. After eight seasons, during which he frequently played in pain, McNabb has earned that right. But in this instance, it's wrong.
The Eagles need to save McNabb from himself and save him for the stretch run. They need him healthy in December and January. To ensure that he is, the Eagles need to sacrifice two months - and a few wins - now. Do it for the greater good of the team, and for the greater good of the player.
Surgery is the only viable, smart option. McNabb has had a litany of injuries already this season. He came into training camp with symptoms of the sports hernia, then suffered a chest bruise on a hit by defensive tackle Chad Lavalais in the season opener at Atlanta. The hernia flared up in Week 2, against San Francisco, and McNabb then bruised a shin Sunday against Oakland.
Against the Raiders, McNabb's anguish was visible. Reid was so concerned that he contemplated pulling McNabb out of the game. But Reid didn't. He rarely, if ever, does against McNabb's will.
This time, he should.
The Eagles consulted with a local sports-hernia expert, Dr. William Meyers, and Tuesday, McNabb got a second opinion from a doctor in Boston. While noting that every athlete is different, Meyers told the Eagles that recovery from sports- hernia surgery usually takes eight to 12 weeks, Burkholder said on Wednesday. It took Dirk Johnson, the Eagles' punter, seven weeks.
The Eagles are entering perhaps the toughest stretch of their schedule, with four of their six games on the road, and none of them easy. After playing at Kansas City and Dallas, the Eagles have an off week, host San Diego, then travel to Denver and Washington before seeing Dallas on Nov. 14 at home.
If McNabb were to sit, maybe the Eagles, at worst, would win only two of those six games. That would make them 4-5, with seven games to play. The schedule then lightens significantly, and a 10-6 record would not be out of the question. Neither would one of 11-5.
At that point, the Eagles still would be in the playoffs, albeit likely without the home-field advantage. But more important, McNabb would be healthy.
On Wednesday, McNabb joked that if Reid and the Eagles tried to pull him from a game, he would lie down on the 50-yard line and "make them pull me off."
Safety Brian Dawkins was asked about McNabb's comment, and about what it would take to keep the quarterback out of the game.
"I could think of two women," Dawkins said. "Mrs. McNabb and Roxi. They probably can keep him out of the game."
In addition to McNabb's mother and wife, Reid should keep his star player out. He should insist that McNabb have surgery. Anything else is just a big mistake.