ESPN's ``Sunday NFL Countdown'' returns _ without Limbaugh

Updated: October 5, 2003, 3:41 PM ET

NEW YORK -- ESPN's NFL pregame show returned Sunday with an apology -- and without Rush Limbaugh -- a week after the commentator's race-tinged comments about Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.

Panelists Chris Berman, Tom Jackson, Steve Young and Michael Irvin took criticism from the media, as well as McNabb, for not responding when Limbaugh suggested on the Sept. 28 "Sunday NFL Countdown" show that McNabb was overrated because the media wants to see a black quarterback succeed.

"Do I wish that I had caught it in hindsight? Absolutely," Jackson said Sunday. "Do I regret that I didn't? Yes. But I'm human. Mostly, I regret that I missed it for Donovan McNabb's sake. I regret that."

Limbaugh resigned from the show Wednesday, and later said he was leaving so the sports network's employees would be spared the uproar over his remarks. He denied that his comments were racially motivated.

On Sunday, following a video recap of the happenings of the past week -- including a replay of Limbaugh's original comments -- the ESPN panelists offered their thoughts on the controversy.

Though they agreed that someone should have responded to Limbaugh right away, Young compared it to viewing game film the week after having missed an open receiver in the end zone.

"We all missed it. I missed it. And the truth is, everyone at ESPN missed it," the former quarterback said.

Berman said: "I have been kicking myself all week."

Jackson criticized the network's decision to bring Limbaugh aboard.

"Rush Limbaugh is known for the divisive nature of his rhetoric," Jackson said. "He creates controversy, and what he said Sunday is the same type of thing that he said on radio for years."

Before McNabb led the Eagles to a 23-13 victory over the Buffalo Bills, Limbaugh said on ESPN's pregame show that he didn't think McNabb was as good as perceived from the start.

"I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well," Limbaugh said. "There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team."

McNabb, who was outspoken about being disturbed by the lack of argument from the other panelists, didn't seem to be holding a grudge against the network.

Later in the program, he participated in a humorous segment where a woman who follows feng shui said the Eagles new stadium, Lincoln Financial Field, had good vibes.

This story is from's automated news wire. Wire index