Donovan McNabb joins Vikings: 'I want to win, and I want to win here'
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minutes after the Minnesota Vikings formally announced the acquisition of Donovan McNabb, coach Leslie Frazier left no doubt about how he foresees the 34-year-old quarterback's role.
"We're signing him hoping that he's going to be our starting quarterback, barring some unforeseen circumstance," Frazier said in a conference call with Twin Cities reporters.
"He looks great, he's everything I thought he would be in our conversations, and I fully expect him to go out and lead our football team through this 2011 season."
The Vikings announced their three-day-old trade with the Washington Redskins late Friday afternoon, less than an hour after the NFL's signing period began and McNabb inked a restructured contract to seal the deal.
The six-time Pro Bowl selection arrived in the Twin Cities earlier in the day, passed a physical and said he'll "put on the mental cap" to learn the Vikings' offense when training camp begins on Monday, even though the new contract means he won't be eligible to practice until three days later.
After 11 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and one disastrous one with the Redskins -- who reportedly gave him up for a sixth-round pick in 2012 and a conditional sixth-rounder in 2013 -- McNabb dismissed the idea of the Vikings being his short-term springboard to one more big opportunity someplace else.
"I want to win, and I want to win here," McNabb said. "My focus this year is to do whatever it takes to help us win. Everything else will take care of itself.
"Do I want to end my career (here)? Absolutely. So, obviously there's going to be talks with that and everything else. 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. I would love to be here and end my career here. But the most important thing is to win, and we want to win and win now."
Frazier and McNabb both declined to reveal the length of the quarterback's new contract, which presumably is shorter and far less lucrative than the five-year, $78 million extension he signed with Washington before things went south last season.
What seems certain is the Vikings no longer are entertaining the idea of letting first-round draft pick Christian Ponder compete for the starting job unless McNabb falters in a big way.
"When you trade for a guy who's been a starter for 12 years, you're not bringing him in here to be a backup," McNabb said. "You're bringing him in here to win now. There was communication about it. But I've been in the situation before, being the starter and they draft a young guy (and) you try to prepare yourself and go out on the field to do the right thing to contribute to winning while you're helping the young guy along."
That was in 2007, when the Eagles used a second-round pick on Kevin Kolb, who developed enough in three seasons behind McNabb that Philadelphia traded the veteran to Washington in April 2010.
In 13 games with the Redskins, McNabb threw more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (14), was benched twice and had a well-publicized falling out with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, head coach Mike Shanahan's son.
"Everything was a blur and it's going to continue to be a blur, because that's behind me right now," McNabb said. "I've moved on, they are moving on and we're going to keep it as such."
The Vikings are trying to move on, too, from a season in which they finished 6-10 and coach Brad Childress was fired. Frazier once again shunned the "rebuilding" tag on Friday and said that, with McNabb at the helm, "we've got some pieces in place on this football team to fight for an NFC North championship again."
Internal discussions about McNabb went back all the way to the end of last season, Frazier said, when the Vikings knew Brett Favre wouldn't return. But no one could be sure whether Washington would hold onto McNabb or release him, and the Vikings moved ahead by drafting Ponder with the 12th overall pick in April.
"If Donovan McNabb is playing great and our team is having success, I think that's good for everybody," Frazier said. "I sat down with Donovan, I sat down with Christian, I sat down with Joe (Webb) and explained my thought process on this whole move, and I think they all understand the goal is to bring a championship to Minnesota and this is a step toward getting that done.
"I'm hoping and believing that it's not going to impeded Christian's progress, nor Joe's. Both those guys we have a lot of high hope for and we expect them just to continue to get better and to continue to compete every single day of practice."
McNabb said he heard there was communication between the teams before the NFL lockout began in March, too, but he reportedly needed a day to consider his options before agreeing to accept the trade and the renegotiations.
Asked if he gave McNabb assurances Ponder wouldn't receive preferential treatment as the top pick, Frazier said, "He knows he has the full support of myself, Christian, Joe, Rhett Bomar, our entire organzation. We want to see him to succeed and we're going to support him. We're trusting he's going to lead us to victory in the 2011 season."
McNabb had relationships with Frazier, head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman and strength and conditioning coach Tom Kanavy from their days together in Philadelphia. And he certainly didn't want to risk being kept in purgatory by a Redskins team that had every intention of moving on after the way last season ended.
He also surely knows that, if things don't go well this time, he may be out of starting chances.
"Sometimes, you have a down year and you bounce back, and that's the way that I see it," McNabb said. "I put last year behind me. It was a learning experience. It's one that I can take a lot from and be able to benefit from it this year. I look forward to that. This opportunity is something that I enjoy, and I take a full head of steam and (am) going to be prepared and ready to go."