Benefit of doubt to McNabb, not accuser

Shawn Andrews is the main reason to be skeptical about anything Shawn Andrews says.

This isn’t intended as an attack on the complicated and troubled former Pro Bowl offensive lineman. And it isn’t intended as an accusation that he fabricated his recent allegations that Donovan McNabb bullied, degraded and spread rumors about him during his days with the Philadelphia Eagles.

I was around the Eagles a lot during both players’ tenures in Philadelphia. I was the Eagles beat writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer when McNabb was drafted in 1999. By the time Andrews arrived in 2004, I was a columnist for the paper. And in Philadelphia, that means a lot of time in the Eagles’ locker room.

It is possible McNabb did the things Andrews alleged in an appearance on 97.5 The Fanatic, the ESPN radio affiliate in Philadelphia, and in an interview with an online magazine, Sync Weekly, based in Arkansas. The media do not have access to players’ lounges, meetings and training rooms. We don’t see everything.

But we see and hear a lot.

McNabb was always walking through the locker room with a smile on his face, setting the tone of upbeat professionalism for his teammates. He was extremely conscious of the quarterback’s role as a leader by example.

In a column by Mike Sielski published in the Inquirer Thursday, McNabb called Andrews’ accusations “ridiculous” and “completely false.” Former Eagles Brian Westbrook, Jeff Garcia and Reno Mahe told Sielski they never saw or heard McNabb do anything like the things Andrews alleges.

Remember, this is the same McNabb who has been criticized in many circles for the way he handled Terrell Owens in 2005. Owens was going on TV and radio, taking shots at McNabb in his ill-fated campaign to get himself a raise. A number of observers have said that McNabb should have punched Owens in the face instead of trying to take the high road (remember that conscious sense of being a leader by example).

So which is it? Is McNabb a passive coward who let Owens malign him or a bully who made Andrews’ life “a living hell”?

Now let’s consider what we know about Andrews. He was a constant source of drama and contradictory statements and behavior during his years with the Eagles. When coach Andy Reid said Andrews’ back had no structural damage, Andrews announced he’d had an epidural and was on Diprivan, the drug implicated in the death of singer Michael Jackson.

Stranger still, when Reid asked Andrews if he would be reporting to training camp in 2009 (Andrews did not in 2008), Andrews texted Reid: “I’m ready to sell out like a Michael Jackson concert.” This was within weeks of Jackson’s death.

Then there were the YouTube videos Andrews posted of himself. One had him performing an original rap about “Getting my Michael Phelps on,” at a time when that could only be taken to mean smoking marijuana.

Mysterious injuries. A training camp holdout attributed to depression issues.

“I feel like I’ve done everything but die,” Andrews said in 2009.

Andrews always seemed like a sweet-natured, sensitive young man who just didn’t love playing football all that much. What he didn’t seem like was a particularly reliable source about anything, even himself.

It is certainly possible McNabb rolled his eyes at Andrews during a team meeting. If so, he would be far from the only person who reacted that way during Andrews’ baffling career in Philadelphia.