McNabb out of practice; Kolb preparing

PHILADELPHIA -- Donovan McNabb was a causal bystander at Philadelphia Eagles practice. Wearing black sweatpants, an Eagles cap and his red No. 5 jersey, McNabb looked more like a fan on a football Sunday than their starting quarterback.

Unlike those Philly die-hards, McNabb hopes to be playing instead of watching against the New Orleans Saints.

McNabb, who has a cracked rib, could not practice Wednesday and likely won't all week. So third-year reserve Kevin Kolb took snaps with the first-team offense in preparation for possibly the first start of his NFL career.

Coach Andy Reid made it clear on Wednesday: Kolb is the starter if McNabb can't play.

"I think between myself and the coaches and the players, we all have a lot of confidence that he'll go out, given the chance, and perform very, very well," Reid said.

That means former Pro Bowl QB Jeff Garcia is simply here as insurance -- for now.

Kolb hasn't impressed anyone in his limited playing time over the last three seasons. He is 24-for-45 for 167 yards, no touchdowns and four interceptions in eight career games. He was 7-for-11 for 23 yards and sacked twice once he took over for the injured McNabb in a win against the Carolina Panthers.

"I've gotten opportunities and haven't done the best job with them," Kolb said. "No excuses."

That's a small sample size to determine whether Kolb can handle the responsibilities of the No. 1 job if McNabb is out Sunday and beyond.

The unknown is what makes Eagles fans jittery entering Sunday. Kolb may start the game, but there are no guarantees he'll be around for the finish.

Kolb, a second-round pick in 2007, has been waiting for this moment since draft day.

"You get to run the huddle the way you want to," Kolb said. "All these things have been going through my head for two years. I'll try not to change too much because you want to the same continuity, but you want to put your own little twist on things."

There's still a chance that Kolb could return to his usual role as McNabb's understudy. Reid said McNabb was making progress and it was too early to rule him out.

"I know how Donovan's wired and he's a tough guy," Reid said. "I've got to make sure that myself and the doctors and trainers evaluate that as we get closer. If he were OK'd to play and felt OK, I think he could go out there with very little practice and perform at a high level."

Garcia, picked up by the Eagles on Tuesday, would be Kolb's backup. He will be the No. 3 emergency quarterback if McNabb starts.

Michael Vick and Garcia will share snaps running the scout team this week. Vick is not eligible to play until next week against the Kansas City Chiefs. McNabb, Garcia and Vick have combined for 12 Pro Bowls.

"This is [Kolb's] opportunity to present to the rest of the league what he's all about," Garcia said. "Hopefully he takes advantage of all of that."

McNabb cracked a single rib when he was crunched by several defenders on his 3-yard touchdown run in the third quarter of last week's win at Carolina. He didn't immediately get up after the touchdown and was attended to by Eagles trainers before eventually leaving the field on his own.

Reid said McNabb's ribs need to get "sticky" -- or, not move up and down -- before he should play.

Running back Brian Westbrook, who missed a game last season with a broken rib, said McNabb's ability to play could depend on how much pain he can tolerate.

"He might be able to take a little bit more pain than I can," Westbrook said. "It's painful when you get hit, when you breathe, when you run. It's painful every time you move."

Kolb's most meaningful playing time came last season when Reid benched McNabb at halftime of a loss at Baltimore. Reid thought Kolb gave the team a better chance to win a game it desperately needed to maintain its slim playoff hopes.

Kolb was 10-for-23 for 73 yards and two interceptions, including one returned an NFL-record 108 yards for a touchdown by Ed Reed.

The Eagles were down 22-7 and had a second down inside the 1 with just under eight minutes left when Kolb threw the costly pick to Reed.

That was all for Kolb. McNabb returned to the starting lineup the next game.

"I think I pressed too much," Kolb said. "I felt like I had to show everybody right now, 'Hey, I'm ready.' And you just press and you can't press as a quarterback."

Win and play well and the job is Kolb's however long is McNabb is out.

Throw interceptions and lose, and fans will clamor for Vick or Garcia to start Week 3 against the Chiefs.

Kolb's been in Philly long enough to know those are his options.

"Because I haven't had much success, it's totally fair and I look forward to the challenge," he said.