Redskins return after bye week

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Redskins returned from their bye week and immediately faced questions about the most important hamstring in the nation's capital.

Coach Mike Shanahan said Donovan McNabb's hamstrings are getting better. However, the Redskins didn't have a hard practice Monday, so the quarterback didn't have to test his legs fully.

"He says he feels much better," Shanahan said. "The hamstring's a lot better. But it's still there, and hopefully there's no setbeck and he'll keep on getting better."

The Redskins resumed practice Monday after five days of vacation, during which the football world at large weighed in on Shanahan's decision to replace McNabb with Rex Grossman in the final two minutes with the game on the line in a loss to the Detroit Lions. Maybe Washington didn't play Sunday, but the television talkers were anything but idle as they criticized Shanahan for making the move as well as the coach's various attempts to explain it.

"It's the nature of the beast," Shanahan said. "Anytime you make a decision like that, obviously there's going to be a lot of controversy in it. I've always been one to do what I think is in the best interest of the team, even though it's sometimes very controversial."

McNabb never claimed his hamstrings were much of an issue in the first place, and they aren't expected to get in the way of his starting next Monday night against his old team, the Philadelphia Eagles.

Shanahan is fully aware that he did not present himself well in his first three attempts to discuss McNabb's benching -- first focusing on McNabb's struggles learning the two-minute offense, then later on the quarterback's lack of "cardiovascular endurance" due to a pair of naggingly sore hamstrings. The coach knew better than to try again, and he declined to answer directly when asked if he should have handled things differently.

"I'm not going to go into that detail. I think we've kind of went down that road enough. If I keep going down it and kind of swerve a different direction, it'll be taken a different way, so I don't want to do that again," he said with a chuckle. "But, like I said, it's a tough decision. You've got to make those decisions that you think gives you the best chance to win. It's not always very popular, but one that I felt was right. And as I shared with the team, sometimes you don't always make the right decisions, but you make a decision based on your gut feeling during the week, watching somebody practice, how the game's going, and you go with it."

Shanahan said he met with McNabb last week before coaches and players went their separate ways for the bye. McNabb, who had seemed caught off guard by the coaches' varying explanations, did not speak to reporters Monday.

The Redskins (4-4) can't afford many more setbacks of any kind. Those who watched the games on Sunday saw the bad news: The New York Giants (6-2) and Eagles (5-3) both won, results that siphoned away the enjoyment of watching the misery of the rival Dallas Cowboys (1-7). If Washington doesn't beat Philadelphia on Monday night, the division could become a two-horse race with the Redskins left behind.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.