New Vikings QB enjoying fresh start (video)
MANKATO — At 3:56 p.m. Thursday, a new era in Minnesota Vikings football began.
Upon learning that the new NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement had been ratified by the NFL Players Association, Donovan McNabb put on a Vikings helmet for the first time.
The cheer that came from the sun-drenched fans in the bleachers at Minnesota State University, Mankato, may be the loudest cheer a Vikings QB has received just for putting a helmet on since Todd Bouman replaced Daunte Culpepper during the 2001 season.
"To be able to come here, in front of these fans and finally be able to get on the field and play, it's a great feeling," McNabb said. "We all couldn't wait to get back here and start playing, just like they couldn't wait. The stands were filled today. I hope they were giving out free Icees or something."
Joking aside, McNabb is looking at his arrival in Minnesota as a fresh start. After 11 memorable seasons in Philadelphia, and one forgettable season in Washington, McNabb said he is happy to be on a team that has big expectations.
"I like what I see here," he said. "I've always liked what I've seen from this team, competing against them, watching them on TV or whatever. There's a lot of talent out here."
McNabb was a first-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1999. He made the Pro Bowl six times as an Eagle and led Philadelphia to seven playoff appearances between 2000-2009. That included a trip to Super Bowl XXXIX (on Feb. 6, 2005), where the Eagles lost to New England, 24-21. McNabb passed for 357 yards and three touchdowns in the game, but was also intercepted three times.
He was unable to lead the Eagles to another Super Bowl and was traded to Washington on April 4, 2010. With the Redskins, McNabb had the worst season of his professional career, completing just 58.3 percent of his passes, while throwing 14 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions.
But in less than a week with the Vikings, though he was unable to practice until Thursday afternoon, McNabb has impressed the coaching staff with his leadership ability. He organized the group of 17 players who were unable to practice (players signed as unrestricted free agents or who re-worked their contracts this offseason were not allowed to practice until the new CBA was ratified) and took them to a local high school to work out.
"With the number of days they had to sit and watch, you would hope they would find a way to do something together," Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier said. "Donovan took the lead in getting that set up. That's a good sign."
McNabb drew more cheers from the crowd on the first play of 11-on-11 work, when he completed a deep ball to Bernard Berrian for a 40-yard touchdown. He completed 8 of 10 passes in the 11-on-11 drills.
"I thought he did a good job, for a guy who hadn't practiced with us, hadn't done anything and was a little bit behind," Frazier said. "The timing was there and he seemed to have a good command of the offense."
McNabb said the wait was worth it.
"I felt like we weren't ever going to be able to get out there," he said. "We were going to be like little kids in Pop Warner who didn't make weight, just standing around. We made a lot of big plays today and some we want back, but it's a good start for us."