Word was relayed to me in late August that Donovan McNabb was T.O.ed at me.
Yet my lone criticism of McNabb was that he wasn't more ticked off at T.O. -- his former camp roommate and soul mate, Terrell Owens. McNabb is the brains and guts of the Philadelphia Eagles, their quarterback and leader, and at some point his teammates had to wonder just how many more cheap shots he would take from Owens without publicly returning fire.
McNabb, I said, owed it to his team to finally stand up and say, "Enough." It was about time for him to effectively turn his other cheeks, as in, "He can kiss my ... "
Owens, of course, I've criticized until the Cowboys come home. (They returned to Dallas after a two-game stay in the Bay Area to face McNabb's team on Sunday at Texas Stadium.)
Owens had the audacity to blast McNabb after the Eagles' Super Bowl loss to New England, telling ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli that he, Owens, wasn't the one who got tired in the fourth quarter.
Owens continued to snipe away through training camp, even accusing his quarterback of lying about attempting to communicate with him to make peace. Owens broke the locker room code by bringing family into it, volunteering on ESPN that McNabb put his brother up to calling Owens.
Yet during media sessions, McNabb continued to laugh it all off and maintain that he and Owens didn't have to be best buddies to work together during practice and games. This Donovan could have borrowed a theme song from the '60s Donovan: "Mellow Yellow."
Come on: "Man" up, my man.
Now I'm here to say that's exactly what McNabb did, in his own mature way. He didn't lose respect from his teammates, he gained even more. He didn't get in a hissing contest with the skunky Owens. He rose above the stink.
Donovan McNabb proceeded to do all his talking with his performance -- with his arm and legs and heart and pain threshold. The Eagles say he's battling a sports hernia, a bruised sternum and a battered shin. But neither T.O. nor a potential trip to the O.R. has kept McNabb from being the NFL's four-week MVP.
So who has been the Eagles' unsung MVP?
Owens -- though not for the obvious reason. Owens unwittingly provided McNabb with the inspiration to rise from very good to warrior great. T.O. really ticked off McNabb, who has channeled his anger into valiant resolve.
Tired? I'll show you tired, pal.
Way to go, T.O. Your selfishness finally benefited your team.
For once, Owens should have taken credit for his low blows when he did his star turn Tuesday night on "The David Letterman Show." When Letterman asked Owens about saying McNabb got tired in the Super Bowl, Owens chuckled and said, "That wasn't me."
Way to "man" up, T.O.
Owens' attacks definitely got under McNabb's thick skin. Several sources said during the offseason that McNabb turned down appearances that would force him to cross Owens' path. Yet I misread McNabb's reaction. He wasn't intimidated. He was motivated.
The man has been on a mission to prove -- or reprove -- his fourth-quarter mettle.