McNabb to undergo surgery for sports hernia

Updated: November 22, 2005, 1:28 PM ET
Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- Donovan McNabb's season is likely over. So is the Philadelphia Eagles' hope of returning to the Super Bowl.

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Philadelphia Eagles

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2005 SEASON STATISTICS
Tot Ast Solo FF Sack Int
32 28 4 1 1 3

The Eagles' star quarterback will have surgery for a sports hernia and is expected to miss the final six games, another crushing blow for a team that had still hoped to make the playoffs without suspended receiver Terrell Owens.

"I'm disappointed that the injury has reached this stage and has ultimately ended my season," McNabb said in a statement. "I wanted so much to help this team turn it around and was unable to do that."

All-Pro cornerback Lito Sheppard also appears out for the season with a severely sprained ankle that will require surgery. The struggling Eagles suspended Owens for four games on Nov. 7, and told him not to return to the team.

Monday's announcements came one day after the reigning NFC champions fell to 4-6 with their fourth straight loss. Even if Philadelphia wins out, a 10-6 record shouldn't be enough for the Eagles to capture a fifth straight NFC East title. The New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys are 7-3 with superior records in the division and conference.

"We understand the season is not over," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "There is a lot of season to play and we will attack that aggressively."

McNabb had played through several injuries and hoped to delay surgery for the sports hernia until after the season. Last Thursday, Dr. William Meyers recommended that McNabb have surgery now, echoing the advice of another doctor over the weekend.

Reid said McNabb will have the operation after Thanksgiving, and recovery time is eight to 10 weeks.

"He understands that it needs to be done, so he's matter-of-fact about it right now," Reid said.

McNabb didn't play in Sunday's 27-17 loss to the Giants after he re-injured his groin while trying to tackle Cowboys safety Roy Williams following an interception last Monday night. Williams returned it 46 yards for a touchdown with 2:43 left to lead Dallas to a 21-20 comeback victory.

"Once the groin becomes an issue, then the recovery is not going to take place and rest is not going to help it," Reid said. "It is just too much discomfort to where Donovan can't run and function."

Sheppard was injured in the third quarter against the Giants when he got tangled up with wide receiver Plaxico Burress on an incomplete pass. He was taken off the field in a cart and the Eagles originally announced the ankle was broken. Sheppard, who went to the Pro Bowl last year, had three interceptions and one sack this season.

"There's quite a separation between the ligaments, almost to the point where there was a dislocation of the ankle," Reid said.

Neither McNabb nor Sheppard was placed on injured reserve yet, meaning each could return should the Eagles somehow make the playoffs.

Philadelphia signed second-year quarterback Jeff Smoker to the practice squad last week, but is looking at others, including former Pittsburgh Steelers star Kordell Stewart.

The 33-year-old Stewart hasn't thrown a pass since 2003 with Chicago. He was on Baltimore's roster last year, and played in one series with the Ravens this season, running for 30 yards on three carries.

Rod Hood replaces Sheppard in the secondary.

Mike McMahon started for McNabb against the Giants, and completed 18 of 39 passes for 298 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also ran for a score and helped the offense move the ball against a tough Giants defense that hadn't allowed a TD for 13 quarters.

"He did some pretty good things in the second half," Reid said. "He made some plays, both with his arm and feet. He was able to settle down and was efficient."

McNabb clearly wasn't the same quarterback who led the Eagles to the NFC championship game the last four years and went to five straight Pro Bowls. He threw a costly interception in the fourth quarter in each of his last three games, and has nine picks this season.

He threw just eight interceptions last season when he became the first player in NFL history to throw more than 30 touchdown passes (31) and fewer than 10 interceptions.

"I'm sure [injuries] hurt him there a bit. He was battling through it. It was not an easy thing for him," Reid said.

Overall, McNabb has passed for 2,507 yards, 16 TDs and has a passer rating of 85.0 this season. A feared runner, McNabb was reluctant to leave the pocket this season. He had just 55 yards rushing on 25 carries, including several kneel-downs.

McNabb's off-field troubles began when Owens criticized him over the summer and the two didn't speak for a prolonged period. They clicked on the field, however, with Owens catching 47 passes for 763 yards and six TDs in seven games.

Owens was suspended following a series of incidents, including repeated criticism of McNabb and lashing out at the organization. The Eagles are 0-3 without him.

An arbitrator is expected to make a decision on Owens' grievance hearing against the Eagles by Tuesday. Owens is hoping to be reinstated or released. The Eagles plan to deactivate him with pay once his suspension is up.

McNabb hurt his chest in the season opener and has been bothered by the sports hernia for months. This will be his first surgery.

Before sitting out Sunday's game, McNabb started 37 straight, excluding the meaningless regular-season finale last season. He missed a total of seven games due to injury during his first six seasons, including the last six regular-season games in 2002 after breaking his ankle.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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