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

Eagles Film Review: Carson Wentz's improvisation pays off big

Eagles Film Review: Carson Wentz's improvisation pays off big

Carson Wentz takes pride in not letting plays die easily. 

In Sunday’s 34-3 win over the Steelers, one play he didn’t let die ended up being the back-breaker in the blowout. 

We’re, of course, talking about the 73-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles at the 13:08 mark in the third quarter. Coming into the second half, the Eagles had a 10-point lead, but this touchdown pushed it to a 20-3 advantage and the rout was on. This play was a tone-setter (see story)

“That’s something that we talk about a lot,” Wentz said after the game. “We always say that a play is never dead. I like to make plays when we need to and everyone just does a great job of getting open in those situations.”

This was the first big off-schedule play Wentz has hit during his three weeks as the team’s starter, but the signs were there. In the Chicago game, there were several times where he showed his ability to extend plays. We broke them down in a film review last week (see story).

Throughout the week, Wentz had been compared to Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. One of the reasons was their shared ability to extend plays and make something happen. Big Ben showed his ability in the first quarter and almost connected on a huge touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton in the back of the end zone, but the receiver couldn’t pull it in. 

When Wentz got his shot later in the game, Sproles was able to pull it in, then make something happen with his feet. 

“I saw Carson scrambling this way,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “Darren was literally right in front of me and when I saw him wheel, my first reaction was to find the sideline to see if he stepped out to be quite honest.  He hadn’t, and Carson just — it was like in slow motion — floated that ball up the sideline and Darren did the rest from there. It was a tremendous play from those two individuals. I guess the last thing I did is I always look back to make sure there are no flags on the ground on those long plays.”

There were no flags. Touchdown. Game. 

Let’s take a closer look at the play: 

Wentz is in shotgun with Sproles in the backfield with him. The Eagles come out with three-wide on the far side of the field and a lot of space on the near side. 

Stephon Tuitt, who actually had a pretty good game against the Eagles, takes this route to the quarterback. When he gets to left guard Allen Barbre, Barbre either didn’t see him or didn’t react quickly enough. 

While Sproles is still running his short out, Wentz feels the pressure and is able to step up through the hole created by Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks. As soon as he makes it through, Wentz still has his eyes downfield. 

Now Wentz is through the hole and sees Sproles finishing his out-route. This is when Wentz, on the run, motions to Sproles to take off. This is something we’ve seen Wentz do a few times during his three weeks as Eagles quarterback. 

Wentz was left with a tough decision here. He could have run for 10, maybe even 15 yards. It was wide open, but he decided to try to make a play with his arm instead. 

“I always want to be a thrower first,” he said. “Even when a play breaks down, I’m always looking [to throw] because that’s where the big plays are happening. If I scramble I might get 5, 10, 15, 20 yards, but I’m not that fast. I always want to get it to the guys that can make plays. We always want to make plays when they’re there, and that’s what happened.”

With the line of scrimmage at the 27, Wentz has enough awareness to run horizontally to make sure he didn’t cross. And as soon as Pittsburgh safety Mike Mitchell takes that first step toward him, Wentz sees how much room Sproles has to work with. 

Ryan Shazier, who was covering Sproles on the play, froze and then started to step toward Wentz too. He said he thought the quarterback crossed the line of scrimmage, but Wentz was aware enough to stay behind.  

Once Sproles catches the ball in open space, he begins to do Sproles things. Defensive back Sean Davis took a bad angle on him and once he gets close, the veteran turns it inside. Davis said he was trying to buy time for the rest of his defense to get there and stop Sproles. It didn’t work. 

“Man, it’s Sproles!” receiver Nelson Agholor said. “Did you think he was going to get tackled?”

While he’s blocking downfield, Dorial Green-Beckham actually trips himself up and does a somersault. But it didn’t matter — Sproles didn’t need a great block. He pretty much did it himself. 

“Anytime that you can put it in the hands of [Sproles] something special can happen on any play, and he did the rest of it,” Wentz said. 

Visit TicketIQ to discover the lowest prices on Eagles tickets anywhere, zone-level ticket data and seat views from fans just like you!

Travis Konecny leaves impression with vets in Flyers' preseason win

Travis Konecny leaves impression with vets in Flyers' preseason win

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Michael Raffl had just finished playing alongside Travis Konecny, the 19-year-old kid that has Flyers fans abuzz about the now and future.

Yet for Raffl, he wasn’t thinking forward. Instead, he was looking back.

“Yeah, well, I couldn’t do that when I was 19, that’s for sure,” the 27-year-old said smiling, eyes wide open. “No, it’s impressive, he’s a really, really good hockey player.”

Konecny had that resounding affect Wednesday night at the PPL Center, recording a goal and an assist while leading the Flyers to a 2-0 preseason win over the Devils (see 10 observations).

He dazzled with speed and shiftiness.

He showed off vision and smarts.

When he touched the puck, he had everyone’s attention.

Paired with Raffl and Brayden Schenn in a game featuring mostly prospects, the 2015 first-round pick made the molding of Ron Hextall’s roster that much more difficult. With the general manager looking on, the highly touted winger started fast before making his imprint during a span of just four minutes and 34 seconds in the second period.

First, he redirected a blast by Andrew MacDonald to hand the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Not long after, the 5-foot-10, 184-pounder deceived the defense to find Raffl right in front off a backdoor pass for a 2-0 advantage.

“We had a cycle play going and he had a nice fake up top there and I was just going to the net,” Raffl said. “Somehow I was all by myself and he saw me, put a perfect pass on my tape and I just went around the goalie and put it in.”

Following his first goal, Konecny nearly tacked on another less than a minute later when he appeared to hit the crossbar on a shot. He also flirted with a few more assists.

“I think I just played relaxed,” Konecny said. “I came into the game tonight trying not to do too much and just keep things simple. The main thing for me was getting pucks out of the zone, so I think I did that well tonight and hopefully I can keep building on it.”

Relieving pucks from the zone isn’t a real problem when you possess the speed and skill of Konecny, who racked up 101 points last season at the junior level.

At just 19, that’s where he’ll have to return if he doesn’t crack the Flyers’ roster.

With cuts already made and more coming, that sometimes is on Konecny’s mind.

“It weighs on you a little bit. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it and it’s definitely the time I need to step up and make sure I’m playing good hockey,” Konecny said. “And just earning another day — that’s just the way I’m looking at it. Every day I wake up and just work hard and move forward from there.

“I think everyone comes into camp and tries to give them (management) a reason not to send you back and make it hard on them.”

Wednesday night didn’t hurt his chances.

“He played a good hockey game,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “Had an impact offensively. He did a pretty good job. There’s some youthful mistakes in there, but overall, he had a real good night tonight playing with Raf and Schenner.”

Placing Konecny with two capable NHL forwards offered the Canadian an opportunity to prove what he could do if he was in fact on the big club.

“We played well together,” Konecny said. “I think from the start we just had a lot of communication, we talked in the room, in warmups, we all knew what we were going to do throughout the game and in certain scenarios.”

If anything, Konecny left an impression on Raffl.

“He’s a very smart player,” Raffl said. “Once he has the puck, he makes smart decisions with it. It was very easy to play with him out there. He plays a mature game and I really enjoyed it.”

Time will tell if more enjoyment is in store come Oct. 14.

Loose pucks
Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon combined for the shutout. Stolarz started and made 11 saves over 29:23, while Lyon played 30:37 and stopped seven shots. “I like both of our guys tonight,” Hakstol said. “Stolie did a good job, he made a difference in this game in the first 10 minutes, those two or three really good saves there. Then Alex came in halfway through, which isn’t an easy thing to do and was ready to go and did his job.” … Schenn, MacDonald and defensive prospect Robert Hagg finished with an assist apiece. … With the roster currently standing at 49, the Flyers expect to make 15 cuts on Thursday. … Defenseman Nick Schultz is out four to seven days with a lower-body injury suffered in Tuesday night’s preseason game. ... The Flyers are off Thursday before likely practicing Friday ahead of Saturday's preseason game at 7 p.m. against the Bruins at the Wells Fargo Center.