ASHBURN, Va. -- Donovan McNabb is finally scheduled to practice the 2-minute drill on Saturday.
Hamstrings permitting, that is.
The offensive staple that so often determines victory or defeat every week in the NFL is set to return to the Washington Redskins weekly routine after an absence of at least six weeks. Mike Shanahan has said McNabb's ailing hamstrings and other nagging injuries have kept the team from practicing the hurry-up attack, and that was one of the reasons the coach cited for benching McNabb late in a loss to the Detroit Lions.
"Hopefully we'll get a chance to work on that on Saturday," Shanahan said Thursday, "if everything works the way I plan."
There's a catch. Shanahan said McNabb's hamstrings are "still a little bit tight" and that he won't run the drill if McNabb can't go full-speed.
"I'm not going to take a chance of injury to put him through that just to run a 2-minute offense," Shanahan said. "You have to be able to go full-speed in a 2-minute situation. It all depends on how he feels. If he's full-speed and ready to go, and I feel like he can do the 2-minute, then he'll get some reps on Saturday."
If McNabb can't practice the drill, he'll be in a similar position in Monday night's game against the Philadelphia Eagles as he was two weeks earlier in the loss to the Lions before the Redskins' bye week. That's when Shanahan benched McNabb for Rex Grossman, eventually claiming it was due to a variety of reasons that included Grossman's better knowledge of the offense, doubts about McNabb having sufficient "cardiovascular endurance" to run the 2-minute scheme and a coach's "gut feel" on what gave the team the best chance to win.
The difference this time, according to Shanahan, is the training staff had genuine doubts as to whether McNabb could even play against the Lions. Now, with a week to recover, there appear to be no such qualms. McNabb took part in the full practice Thursday, although the injury report listed him with hamstring and groin issues.
"He's much better this week. He will play," Shanahan said. "He's ready to go, and hopefully there's no setback."
The 2-minute offense got a 15-minute workout when McNabb met with reporters Thursday. He said it's no big deal that the Redskins haven't worked on it, that the normal in-and-out-of-the-huddle tempo at practice is similar. He said that sometimes he calls the plays during the 2-minute drill, while at other times the call comes from the coaches. It was pointed out to him that, among all the things for which he was criticized during his 11 years with the Eagles, his knowledge of the play book and his cardio fitness weren't among them.
Anxious to move on and avoid criticizing the coaching staff, McNabb's response was simply: "It's been quite entertaining."
It's clear, though, that McNabb, Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan exchanged much more candid thoughts behind closed doors.
"We've hashed out a lot of different things," McNabb said.
While McNabb has a stellar stat sheet from his years with the Eagles, he is not known as a special 2-minute quarterback. His resume isn't flush with iconic game-winning drives, and his career quarterback rating in the fourth quarter of tight games (leading or trailing by seven points) is an unimpressive 75.8. This year it's an abysmal 38.1, although he's playing in a new scheme with a suspect offensive line and only two reliable wideouts.
"If you look at the history of Donovan, he's been inconsistent in that period of time. There've been times when he's run the 2-minute offense brilliantly and there have been times where it's been sketchy," ESPN "Monday Night Football" analyst Ron Jaworski said. "I always felt a strong arm was critical to success in a 2-minute drill and always think mobility is important as well. I think your quarterback has to have a pocket feel and ability to move around in the pocket."
Also weighing in was Shanahan's former boss, Eagles coach Andy Reid, who was responsible for McNabb's only other NFL benching. McNabb was pulled at halftime after throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble in a game the Eagles lost 36-7 to Baltimore on Nov. 23, 2008.
"Donovan and I talked immediately after the game," Reid said. "And he knew the reasoning and everything else and we kept open communication with him, so I don't think it's quite like this one."
Reid wouldn't venture any further, calling McNabb "the greatest quarterback to play for the Philadelphia Eagles" and refusing to speculate on Shanahan's motives.
"I'm not here to judge or anything else," Reid said.
After being benched by Reid, McNabb came back the following week to throw four touchdown passes against Arizona, the start of a 4-1 stretch run that put Philadelphia back into the playoffs.
"Donovan can handle anything," Reid said. "He's a pretty strong-minded guy."