Thursday's NFL: Donovan McNabb says Black QBs have always faced doubt

Associated Press

Philadelphia — Donovan McNabb hopes other Black quarterbacks don’t switch positions when they’re encouraged to do so because of their athleticism.

Staying at quarterback worked out well for McNabb. He made six Pro Bowls after being drafted No. 2 overall by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1999 and led the team to five NFC championship games in 11 seasons.

FILE - Six-time Pro Bowl quarterback Donovan McNabb speaks during a news conference in Philadelphia, in this Monday, July 29, 2013 photo.

His career may have turned out different if he didn’t go to Syracuse, however.

“When I was getting recruited out of high school, for a lot of the scouts that would come in and watch the film and they’ll get a chance to sit in front of you and evaluate you a little bit as you’re talking to them, there was questions,” McNabb said on the AP Pro Football Podcast. ”‘Have you ever thought about playing wide receiver? Have you ever thought about playing running back? If you came up to campus, do you think that you can compete with some of our quarterbacks?’”

McNabb never thought another position because he only played quarterback. He didn’t consider schools that wanted him to play running back or wide receiver.

“It seems like they get a little upset that you turn them down,” he said. “They say: ‘If you ever think about playing another position, please put us on the list to be the first call.’”

McNabb and Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Moon are among the players who will be featured in the premier of a documentary called “Fear of a Black Quarterback” that airs on Vice TV on Thursday night.

“There was always the question of doubt when you’re a young kid,” McNabb said. “People are telling you that you can be a receiver, running back or you’d be better at linebacker or safety and just kind of killing your dream.”

Lamar Jackson said a scout from the Los Angeles Chargers asked him to run routes at the NFL scouting combine. He refused. The Baltimore Ravens selected Jackson with the 32nd pick in the 2018 draft. He was NFL MVP in his second season.

Several Black QBs say teams aren’t as patient with them in the development process.

“You’re either a starter or you’re out of the league,” said Akili Smith, who was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals one pick after McNabb and lasted just four seasons.

Paul: Somewhere, a gay kid's in a better place because Carl Nassib came out

Even the success of Super Bowl champions Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes hasn’t convinced McNabb that perception hasn’t changed for Black QBs.

“There’s some positivity but we’ve got to remember this,” McNabb said. “Remember when Russell Wilson got his contract? What was one of the first things that people said? Is he worth more money than Aaron Rodgers? Is he worth more money than Tom Brady?”

McNabb won more games for the Eagles (92-49-1) than any quarterback in franchise history and holds several club records, including most yards passing (32,873) and most touchdowns passes (216). His No. 5 was retired in 2013. Despite the success, his relationship with the fans had ups and downs. It began with hearing boos at the draft from fans who wanted the team to select running back Ricky Williams.

“It’s a portion of people who have thoughts and ideas,” McNabb said.

McNabb says he mentored Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, who replaced Carson Wentz last December and enters this season as the starter.

“Everywhere he’s been, he’s won,” McNabb said. “I know the work that he put in this offseason and who he worked with and so now he just has to build a chemistry with the coaching staff. You have to be able to build chemistry throughout that offense with the rest of the players. Do they have enough pieces around him to be successful is the question.”

More Thursday's NFL

Steelers cut 6-time Pro Bowl guard DeCastro in surprise move

The Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday released six-time Pro Bowl guard David DeCastro in a surprise move.

The 31-year-old DeCastro attended the team's mandatory minicamp last week but did not participate in full-team drills.

DeCastro, the team's first-round pick in the 2012 draft, spent nine years with the Steelers. He was named All-Pro following the 2015 and 2017 seasons while playing on one of the most dominant offensive lines in the league. DeCastro was entering the final season of a five-year $50-million contract he signed in 2017.

The decision does free up some salary-cap space for the Steelers to find a replacement, but DeCastro's solid play on the field and presence in the locker room deals a significant blow to what is now a very young offensive line group.

"David was without a doubt one of the premier offensive linemen during his time with us,” general manager Kevin Colbert said in a statement. “He helped us win a lot of football games, but it was David’s consistency, reliability and professionalism that stood out more than anything else.”

DeCastro expressed frustration last December with the disjointed 2020 season. The Steelers won the AFC North while playing most of their home games in an empty Heinz Field because of COVID-19 protocols.

“You're like, 'What are we doing out here?'” DeCastro said at the time. “I don't like to make excuses because we're professionals and stuff but we're still human. We have emotions and not having fans there, it's just tough.”

DeCastro's abrupt departure means the Steelers will have an almost completely rebuilt offensive line entering 2021. Veteran center Maurkice Pouncey retired in January, left tackle Alejandro Villaneuva signed with Baltimore and left guard Matt Feilier is now with the Los Angeles Chargers.

Zach Banner is the only starter from the offensive line group that walked onto the field for Week 1 in 2020 who will be back this season, and Banner is recovering from major knee surgery after going down in the opener against the New York Giants.

The Steelers drafted center Kendrick Green in the third round to take over for Pouncey. Kevin Dotson will take over at one of the guard spots, with B.J. Finney figuring to be the frontrunner to take over the other one unless Pittsburgh finds someone on the open market like Trai Turner, who was released in March by the Chargers.

DeCastro missed the first two games of 2020 with lingering knee issues but appeared in 13 of Pittsburgh's final 14 games. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin did not address that status of DeCastro's health at the end of minicamp.

“If I thought injury circumstances or reasons why people were not participating were significant, I would share them with you, but I’m not going to address day to day like things in this environment,” Tomlin said. “It’s not required.”

Alternate helmets returning to NFL in '22 after 9-year pause

The NFL is bringing back alternate helmets in 2022, ending a nine-year hiatus that started because of concerns about player safety.

The league wrote to clubs in a memo dated Thursday that it must be notified of plans to use alternate helmets by July 31 even though they won't be used for another year. The memo was obtained by The Associated Press.

The use of a second helmet was dropped in 2013 over concerns that wearing more than one helmet might not be safe for players. As those concerns have eased, clubs have lobbied for a second helmet because options for alternate jerseys were expanded in 2018, the league said.

The second helmet can only be worn only with so-called classic, alternate or color rush jerseys, and all players must be fitted for both helmets before training camp, the league wrote in the memo.

The primary and alternate helmets must be the same make, model and size. The alternate helmets must be worn in practice the week of the game they will be used, if not before.

The NFL began allowing throwback uniforms to commemorate its 75th season in 1994. They gained popularity through the years before the limit of one helmet made alternate uniforms less enticing because of the difficulty matching the base color of the primary helmet.