EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Even before he takes his first practice snap with the Minnesota Vikings, Donovan McNabb knows he will soon be replaced. He even knows the identity of his successor. To me, that dynamic makes for unique and compelling theater this season in Minnesota.
For McNabb? It's old hat.
Speaking via conference call Friday to Twin Cities reporters, McNabb said he will approach his current situation in the same manner: looking forward but with his eyes wide open. He made clear that "when you trade for a guy who's been a starter for 12 years, you're not bringing him to be a backup." But at the same time, he pledged to "be professional" and show rookie quarterback Christian Ponder "how to be a pro and how to be great at your job," all while accepting his long-term fate.
"For those who can't handle that aspect of trying to lead a guy into the role in which you're in, well ... everybody is different. I'm not that way," McNabb said. "Things happen. Obviously, when they drafted Kevin Kolb in Philadelphia, I never gave him the cold shoulder. I just continued to work with him, communicate with him, still talk to him to this day. And he's had his opportunity now to become a starter in Arizona.
"You can't play this game as long as Brett [Favre] did all the time. There is going to be a time when the young guy is going to step into that role. You just have to make sure that when you're all done and you decide to walk away from the game that he's ready to play."
I thought McNabb mixed appropriate levels of realism, confidence and humor during about 15 minutes of questions and answers. He wouldn't reveal the length or terms of his renegotiated contract, other than to joke (I think) that it is for "20 years for $20 million." He made no excuses about his performance for the Washington Redskins last season, saying "sometimes you have a down year." And most importantly, he seemed to accept he is in the shortest of short-term positions.
"I want to end my career [here]," McNabb said. "Absolutely. So obviously there is going to be talks with that and everything else. [But] I can't focus on the future. I can't focus on who is going to be where and what. I can only focus on what's going on right now, and right now I'm a Minnesota Viking."
What you just read is a cliché from start to finish, but in this case it's the only mindset McNabb could possibly have. McNabb and the Vikings are focused on making this work in Week 1. After that, they'll start worrying about Week 2.
"We all want to see [McNabb] succeed," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "That's why we brought him here. We're going to support him. We've got some players around him. As they get to know him, they're going to support him because they want to win. We trust that he's going to lead us to victories in the 2011 season. I didn't have to prep him about any of those things. He's experienced this before."
The Vikings obviously consider this situation the best of both worlds: a veteran quarterback who can win now and a blue-chip quarterback in development behind him. I'm open to the possibility but convinced of only one thing: The success of their season depends on it.
Even in a normal training camp, you can't get two quarterbacks ready to play. Given the unique circumstances of this summer, training camp repetitions will be at the highest premium imaginable.
McNabb will spend the next week or so doing classroom work before he is eligible to begin practicing Aug. 4. After that point, if they want McNabb to learn a new offense and develop chemistry with his new teammates, the Vikings will have to make Ponder's development a very secondary priority. If McNabb rewards their confidence, it's a win-win. If he doesn't? We'll leave that one alone for now.