Exclusive: Donovan McNabb Talks with The700Level.com

Exclusive: Donovan McNabb Talks with The700Level.com

Donovan McNabb has been the center piece of the sporting world in Philadelphia for the past decade. Allen Iverson took us on a wild ride only to fall short early in the 2000s. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are certainly on the upswing of super stardom but the Phillies have still failed to win a playoff game since 1993. The Flyers and Sixers have made tremendous strides the past few seasons but neither has brought home a championship. That parade down Broad Street eludes us.

Yesterday, I got the chance to talk to the guy whose shoulders our city's championship dreams most broadly fall on, Donovan McNabb.

We chatted for about twenty minutes on topics ranging from the status of his chest injury, his feelings on the fans giving him an ovation last Sunday, his thoughts on Vince Young, to his admiration of Brian Dawkins and even his favorite movie. You can read the conversation in its entirety below and enjoy a couple quick video sound bites I threw together. Enjoy.

Enrico: We know you have your personal blog on Yardbarker.com but do you read any other blogs?

Donovan: Do I read any other blogs? I don’t. Because mine is so hot. No, you know, I just try to reach out to a lot of the fans who don’t really have a hands on feel of the type of person that I am. I think it’s great for a lot of the fans to get an understanding of us as players.

Enrico: How do you like having that direct line of communication to the fans where it’s unedited with no media bias?

Donovan: I think it’s better because it answers a lot of questions they may have had. When the media asks questions it always deals with football, with things that people don’t want to hear about. They see the game, they get the answers to what happened in the game, but when you get to know an athlete you have to get to know him from a different side. I think it’s important to us as athletes to reach out to our fans to show them different ways that we prepare ourselves going into game weeks, things that are on our mind that may not pertain to football, how we may handle things off the field. It’s not just, “Hey, I’m lifting weights or I’m watching film and I played in a game.” It goes more in-depth than that.

You started off Sunday by connecting on 15 straight passes. Do you feel that a QB can get in the zone as athletes in other sports like basketball talk about?

I think it’s not just in sports, I think it’s in life in general when you feel like you’re in a groove. If you’re selling cars and you sold ten cars in the last month, you feel like you’re in that zone. Everything you tell your client is what they want to hear. In basketball, the rim feels like you’re shooting into the ocean. You just can’t miss. When you’re in that rhythm offensively in football, you’re connecting with your receivers, you know what you’re seeing, guys are making big plays for you, you’re scoring touchdowns. You, personally, feel like you’re in the zone but the team also feels like it’s in the zone.

How's the chest feeling?

The chest is getting better. It’s a little sore but we’ve been treating it. We’re going to continue to treat it all week and hopefully when the time comes we’ll be ready to roll.

You mentioned in your post game interview that when three Steelers pounced on you it felt like Bruce Lee getting kicked in the chest by Kareem. Are you a big Bruce Lee/Game of Death fan?

You know, I was. I used to watch the karate station on Saturday mornings. In college we had the Seven Deadly Villains. You get out your karate movies, especially Wu Tang was big with it. I remember watching when Kareem kicked him in the chest and left his footprint on his chest.A short clip of me chatting with Donovan

Is The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh really you're favorite movie of all time? I'm ashamed (I think?) to admit I've never seen it despite Dr. J. starring in a 70's disco-styled role. Should I check it out?

It is my favorite movie of all time, yes. You need to check it out. It’s got a lot of the NBA stars from the past. Kareem is in there, Norm Nixon, Mychal Thompson, Bob Lanier, the list goes on. It’s a movie that is pretty awesome with an interesting plot of a losing team that comes together and had tryouts and they pick all Pisces. They had an astrologist come in and tells them what they’re reads were going to be and how it’s going to happen.

Without Westbrook and with you hurting, the offense struggled on Sunday yet the defense was playing lights out. When the D is shutting down opponents like that and getting the Linc rowdy, does that energy translate at all to when you guys get on the field?

You feed off all the energy that your fans present. You try to show them positive plays and we did that early on. Our defense was blitzing, getting to the quarterback, getting sacks. Our fans were on their feet and that’s what you want when you’ve got home field. You want your fans to provide that twelfth man and that energy that you need. I thought our defense did a remarkable job of applying pressure to Ben and getting him out of that rhythm, which gave us an opportunity to put enough points on the board to win the game.

You didn’t come out with the rest of the team at half time but came out a few moments later by yourself and received a real nice ovation. Does that pump you up to get back in there?

It feels good when you get a good reception, when people acknowledge the things you’ve done and get excited to see you back out there again. You know I took a shot in the game and it bothered me through the course of the game, especially in the second half a little bit where we had a decent rhythm but not as well as we had in the first half. Again, our defense really stepped up and made big plays for us. When you’re in that situation, you want to step up and do what ever it takes to win. I try to provide that.

B-Dawk struggled a bit in the Dallas game yet played phenomenal against the Steelers. Fans obviously love Dawk for his intensity but he's also a bit of a showman. Do the players on the team talk about Dawk's Wolverine-like flying tackles at all?

Dawkins is kind of two guys. You know Brian Dawkins as the person and on the field he changes into a super hero. We know that when Dawk puts his helmet and shoulder pads on he’s going to give it everything that he has. His passion is unbearable. His determination is something you wish everyone had. He’s willing to contribute and do anything and everything possible in order to win the game. He’s a guy that leaves everything out on the field for his team. At the end of the game, you know he’s going to be spent and he can say that he gave you all that he had. You can see that.

Coming into the season, Eagles fans were pumped about DeSean Jackson's potential. You tried a bit to temper expectations after his very impressive rookie debut against the Rams. After three games, is it safe to say you're excited about his ability?

He’s still a rookie. It’s early in the season, he hasn’t hit the wall yet as far as your body, recovery, and mentally where you’re at. As the season continues to get longer, how does he adjust? He’s still a rookie no matter how you look at it. But one thing about him, he works extremely hard, he prepares himself, and when the ball is in his hands, he’s one of those electrifying football players.

When did you realize that DeSean threw the touchdown away in Dallas. Did you have to wait for the replay or did you have a hunch as soon as it happened.

I went in on the replay and saw it happen. It’s unfortunate but things happen.

How much does not having Shawn Andrews out there hurt?

You always miss a guy like Shawn who is a Pro Bowler and the things he can present to you. We know that he’s rehabbing well and getting himself back together and Max is filling in and doing a great job so far.

Fans and opposing players seem to be supportive of The Big Kid after he went through some rough spots this summer, how's he doing as a teammate?

We’ve corralled him and made sure he understands that we’re there for him. We provide confidence for him with that. I think also what we try to do is make sure that he doesn’t have to worry about what we may be saying behind his back. We try not to do that. We want to make sure that while he is going through this process, he can always rely on us and if he wants to talk to somebody we’re here for him. We’re all one big family.

I read something today that mentioned Hank Baskett and Todd Herremans describing this Eagles team as a family. How important is that kind of bond on the field? Is it vital to winning?

It is vital to winning because guys are selling out for that guy next to him. I think that’s very important when you come to play this vicious game. When you see another man down, you elevate your game until he’s ready to get back on track and things get rolling again.

A fellow QB, Vince Young, seems to be struggling with criticism lately. As a quarterback who has dealt with his fair share of criticism, can you sympathize at all?

I can. I’ve communicated with him. It’s something that everybody goes through. A lot of people may not be public with theirs. It’s unfortunate the way his went about. I think he’s handling it the right way. You want to continue to stay strong mentally, physically, and spiritually in the situation and stay positive and know everything is going to work out for the better.

On Sunday, you passed Ron Jaworski for most TDs thrown in Eagles history. How'd it feel to break a guy like Jaws ‘record?

It’s an honor. With everything he’s been able to accomplish in Philadelphia as a player and he’s still a major figure in the city. He does a lot of different things in the Philadelphia area, obviously being co-owner of the Soul and they just won the championship. To break a guy’s record like that who was not only a great player but is also a great human being, it’s a special feeling.

Most fans in Philly were happy to see the Soul win but it’s not one of the big four. Does that give you the itch even more to really want to bring home a championship?

I’ve always had that itch. We got close in 2004. We got to the appetizer but we didn’t get to the entrée. It’s a process that when you put yourself in position, you have to take full advantage of it. We know that when that time comes about, we know what we have to do and have to get it done.

With Chicago next week, if Sunday comes and you're without your biggest weapon in Westbrook, how does that alter the offensive game plan and your style of play in particular.

I just have to do what I’ve been doing, spread the ball around and know what I’m seeing, get guys involved and give them an opportunity to make plays. With that said, make sure that we execute when the time is there. The opportunities are going to be there, we need to make sure we take advantage of them.

I know you're a huge hoops fan and I got a chance to see the Redeem Deem Team play in Beijing. Did you get into the Olympics at all and are you tight with any of the guys that won gold in Beijing?

I’ve had a chance to meet LeBron a couple of times, I know Dwayne. I’ve got a chance to meet Kobe a couple of times. Other than that, all the other guys I’ve watched each season since they’ve been in the NBA. I’m a big fan and was very excited to see they were able to accomplish their goal of winning the gold and show that the U.S. is strong.

Would you like to see Chicago get the 2016 games and are you doing anything to support their bid?

Definitely. You want the big time cities to host and what a big city Chicago is. Talk about fun and excitement, we have that. You talk about shopping and sights, we have that for everybody to come in and enjoy as well. Then you talk about great sports and we can definitely represent that.

Do you spend much time in Chicago these days? Have a favorite restaurant you hit up or is it all business when you come into town?

Every now and then I spend some time there, not much, but I do. It’s all business, you know, with a little play action in there. I throw a little play in there. There’s not one restaurant in Chicago, it’s a big group of great restaurants.

What is the general feeling around the locker room this year, and how does it compare to the start of 2007? Clearly, there were some tough issues affecting the team last year, and although you face a few this year as well, the appearance is overall a lot more positive.

It’s really no different. It’s easier when no one is really talking about you and there’s not much controversy to talk about and you can just focus on what you need to do. I think this team understands that and we take on the challenge that each week we need to bring our ‘A’ game. This is the type of season where at the end of the season people can look back on and say that’s a really good team. We feel like we have a good team and we have to bring it together and be on the same page to take advantage of each opportunity.

A huge thanks to Donovan and his people for taking the time to talk with us. Now go kill Chicago. Also, big thanks to Yardbarker for helping to set this up.

Getty Image at the top by Al Bello

Pete Mackanin: Like Chicago Italian beef, Freddy Galvis is the best

052816-booth-hit-webbestvideo3_1920x1080_694881347538.jpg

Pete Mackanin: Like Chicago Italian beef, Freddy Galvis is the best

CHICAGO – Other than the Italian beef sandwiches from Portillo’s that he loves so much, Pete Mackanin hasn’t had much to feel good about during his trip to his hometown.
 
Mackanin’s rebuilding Phillies have been bulldozed by the powerful Chicago Cubs two days in a row (see game story) and have lost four of five games on a road trip that ends with one more in Wrigley Field on Sunday afternoon.
 
As difficult as it was to see his club get roughed up on Saturday, Mackanin was able to find a sliver of something good in the rubble of a 4-1 defeat.
 
“The highlight of the day was Freddy Galvis -- all day,” Mackanin said.
 
Mackanin listed all the things his 26-year-old shortstop did, from a tremendous relay throw to the plate to stop a run from scoring, to his two hustle plays that led to the Phillies’ only run in the ninth.
 
Galvis, who made several outstanding plays in the field on Friday, vowed to cut down on his errors after making 17 last season. He has just one in 48 games this season and Mackanin is more than impressed with the improvement.
 
“He’s making every play there is,” Mackanin said. “To me, if he’s not the best shortstop in the league, I’d like to see the guy that’s playing as consistent defense as he is.
 
“I’m thrilled with the way he’s playing. He’s playing hard and kind of taken a leadership role just with the way he goes about his business.”
 
Galvis has improved his defense by committing himself to concentrating for 27 outs and not getting careless on routine plays.
 
“I’ve been working with Larry Bowa on trying to set my feet and make the routine plays,” he said. “Don’t try to do too much. Just throw the ball, catch the ball and that’s it. So far, so good.”
 
Mackanin has made it clear that he expects his players to play hard and hustle. He made a huge statement to that effect when he benched his best player, Odubel Herrera, for not running out a ground ball in Detroit on Monday night.
 
So it was not surprising to see Mackanin heap praise on Galvis for his hustle in the top of ninth inning Saturday.
 
Galvis led off the inning with a pop up to right field. Outfielder Jason Heyward and second baseman Ben Zobrist got their signals crossed and the ball fell in. Galvis, running hard the whole way, ended up on second with a fluke double.
 
“That was huge the way he ran that out,” Mackanin said.
 
Galvis then moved to third on a ground ball and scored the Phillies’ only run on a risky base running play. Ryan Howard whiffed on a dropped third strike. As catcher Miguel Montero threw to first to complete the out, Galvis sprinted down the line and slid safely into home. He was able to get a huge jump because the Cubs shifted Howard and left third uncovered. Had Galvis been out at the plate, the game would have been over and it would have gone down as a bad play. But he made it and Mackanin loved it. 
 
“He hustled on a routine fly ball that turned into a double, advanced and scored on the throw to first after the strikeout – it made my whole day,” Mackanin said. “It burnt the shutout. I like to see a guy like that play with that kind of energy.”
 
Earlier in the game, Galvis was hit by a pitch on the right ankle. The pitch got him good and he hobbled to first base. But his dash for home in the ninth inning proved he was OK. Still, he wore an ice pack on the leg after the game. It was a noticeable enough ice pack that Galvis had to be asked whether he expected to play on Sunday.
 
“(Bleep) yeah,” he said.

Once again, Phillies can't measure up to rampaging Cubs

052816-howard-joseph.jpg

Once again, Phillies can't measure up to rampaging Cubs

CHICAGO –- For those who called this a measuring stick series, well, you’re going to need a bigger ruler.

The Phillies are still miles upon miles from being able to match up consistently with baseball’s elite clubs.

They’ve encountered one of them the last two days and the results haven’t been pretty: Two losses to the Chicago Cubs by a combined score of 10-3. The Cubbies have pounded nine extra-base hits in the two games and four have been home runs. The Phillies have just three extra-base hits, all doubles, and one was a pop-up that dropped in because of a communication breakdown in the Cubs’ outfield.

Saturday’s 4-1 loss was the Phillies’ sixth defeat in the last eight games and fourth in five games on this challenging trip that started in Detroit (see Instant Replay). Like the Cubs, the Tigers can mash the baseball. The Phillies can’t and it’s catching up with them. They are averaging just 3.22 runs per game, second-worst in baseball. Saturday’s loss marked the 18th time they’ve been held to two or fewer runs in their 49 games. It’s a tribute to their pitching that they’re still three games over .500.

Something must be done to spark the offense. Management has basically said it wants to take more time to evaluate the team and its place in the standings before it decides whether to pursue a bat in the trade market. And even if club officials decide to pursue a bat, they won’t compromise the rebuild — i.e. trade away the prospects it has worked to accumulate — to get one.

So what you’re looking at in the short-term is more of Tommy Joseph — that’s a move that has to be made as Ryan Howard is down to a .154 batting average— and maybe Cody Asche, who could join the club during the coming homestand.

Not too long ago, the Cubs were a rebuilding team, just like these Phillies. Now, they are baseball’s best club, leading the majors with 33 wins and outscoring opponents by 126 runs. (The Phillies, by the way, have a run differential of minus-38.) The Cubs have one goal for this season: Snap their 108-year World Series drought. Anything less will be a disappointment.

There’s more to this Cubs team than offense, though. The Phillies have seen that over the last two days. Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs two starting pitchers, have allowed just two earned runs in 15 1/3 innings.

Hendricks came within one out of a shutout Saturday. The right-hander was not overpowering, but he threw a lot of strikes and the Phillies did nothing with them. He scattered five hits, did not walk a batter and struck out seven. The middle of the Phillies' order — Maikel Franco, Howard and Cameron Rupp — went 0 for 12 with four strikeouts.

Manager Pete Mackanin tipped his hat to Hendricks.

Sort of.

“Let me say this,” Mackanin said. “I don’t want to take anything away from Hendricks because he’s a damn good pitcher and I like him a lot, but I feel like we took pitches we should have hit and we swung at pitches we shouldn’t have swung at. He gave us just enough, not a lot, but just enough, pitches out over the plate to hit and we didn’t capitalize. We took too many pitches that were hittable. That being said, I really like the kid. But I think we should have been more aggressive early in the count.”

Why weren’t the Phils more aggressive?

“Who knows?” Mackanin said. “They just didn’t look aggressive at the plate.”

The Cubs, in turn, were aggressive. They came out of the gate pounding baseballs. Leadoff man Dexter Fowler homered in the first inning against Jerad Eickhoff and Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist both had doubles as the Cubs took an early 2-0 lead.

Eickhoff got better and gave the club six innings, but the bats couldn’t bail him out.

“Eickhoff started off real shaky and didn’t show command,” Mackanin said. “The ball was up in the zone and it looked like it might get ugly when they scored early. But after the second inning, he settled down and pitched well, the way we’ve seen him pitch, using all his pitches.”

Said Eickhoff: “They’re a good team, but all good teams can be manipulated and controlled. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do that.”

Vince Velasquez gets a chance to try to control the rampaging Cubs on Sunday.

Andrew Bynum's new hairdo will haunt your dreams

2-22-13-andrew0bynum-ap.jpg
The Associated Press

Andrew Bynum's new hairdo will haunt your dreams

Of all the questionable decisions in Andrew Bynum’s career, this might just take the cake as the worst. No, it definitely does. 

Just look at that hair. What was he thinking? Was he even thinking at all?  

Bynum, who is no stranger to bad — I mean really bad — hair, looks to be enjoying his retirement. But let’s dig a bit deeper. Put on your polarized sunglasses and look past that bright yellow hair, because there is much more going on in this picture.

Forget his time as a member of the Sixers, smiling in a picture with a Penguins’ fan might be the biggest travesty Bynum has committed against the city.

And where was this picture taken? It appears to be a casino or arcade. Wherever it is, for the sake of Bynum’s precious knees, let’s hope it’s not a bowling alley