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Updated: December 2nd, 2011 10:59am
Sources: Donovan McNabb was running scout team, demoted to No. 3 QB

Sources: Donovan McNabb was running scout team, demoted to No. 3 QB

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- From the moment the Donovan McNabb was granted his release on Thursday, speculation centered on whether the veteran quarterback had lined up someplace else to play.

Turns out McNabb wasn't even getting to practice the same way with the Minnesota Vikings anymore.

Multiple NFL sources told 1500ESPN.com on Friday that McNabb had been relegated to running the scout team in recent weeks, and it's believed he asked for his release after being informed he would be No. 3 on the depth chart for the rest of the season, beginning with Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos.

The change meant McNabb, 35, would have had virtually no chance to get back on the field even if something happened to rookie Christian Ponder and he would have given up even more snaps in practice to second-year pro Joe Webb, who moved up to No. 2 on the depth chart.

The same thing happened in 2010 to McNabb, who lost his starting job in Washington to Rex Grossman and by mid-December had fallen to No. 3 behind John Beck.

Multiple reports said McNabb's agent, Fletcher Smith, made the request for his release. That may have happened, but not until McNabb was informed of the Vikings' decision to demote him.

Ponder has taken every game snap since replacing McNabb late in a blowout loss at Chicago on Oct. 16, and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said on Thursday the team "feel(s) great about (Webb's) future as a quarterback on this team as well."

According to sources, McNabb reported to training camp out of shape and had fallen further out of shape after his demotion. He seemed to acknowledge as much in an interview with ESPN on Thursday in which he said he wants to play and "(c)learing the mind and getting the body back where it needs to be is the most important thing."

Like all players after the trade deadline, McNabb is subject to a 24-hour waiver period. If he is claimed -- the Chicago Bears are the most, and perhaps only, logical suitor -- the new team would assume his one-year, $5.05 million contract, which has $1,485,294 in base salary remaining.

If no one claims him, McNabb could choose to take the onetime option of collecting the rest of that money because he's a vested veteran. But the Vikings would have gotten about the same bang for that buck even if they'd kept him for another five weeks.

In July, coach Leslie Frazier won a contentious argument to acquire McNabb from the Redskins for a sixth-round draft pick in 2012 and a conditional sixth-round pick in 2013, hoping the six-time Pro Bowl pick would give the Vikings a chance while Ponder developed.

On Thursday, Frazier acknowledged that, with the Vikings long eliminated from playoff contention at 2-9, getting more reps and attention for Ponder and Webb had become more important than keeping McNabb around as a mentor.

"One thing that it does, with the structure of the way we work with our quarterbacks -- Bill Musgrave and (quarterbacks coach) Craig Johnson will devote more time to both Christian along with Joe in their development," Frazier said. "That's purely what it does. We have two guys we're working with now as opposed to three guys, and their attention will be occupied by those two."

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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