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For McNabb, Playing In Chicago Is Always 'Special'


Donovan McNabb enjoyed a homecoming of sorts three weeks ago when he returned to Philadelphia.

Now it's time for a home-going, if we may use such a word.

McNabb played 11 seasons with the Eagles before coming to the Redskins a trade last spring. He had become a part of Philadelphia's fabric in those years. His roots, however, are in Chicago, where he grew up.

The Redskins (3-3) play the Chicago Bears (4-2) on Sunday at Soldier Field but that hardly has McNabb in a nostalgic mood. He has played against the Bears, the team he cheered as a kid, a number of times, including once last season, and has played at the Bears' landmark stadium before.

Still, there are memories and people he loves there. Special to go back?

"It is," he said Wednesday. "You get an opportunity go back home and play in front of family and friends who don't really don't get the opportunity to travel and come see you in given cities. It's still pretty special."

McNabb was born on Chicago's South Side but the family later moved to Dolton, Ill., about 20 miles further south.

As a youth, McNabb, as well as the whole of the Windy City and the nation itself, got swept up in the mystique of the 1985 Bears – Da Bears. That team, coached by Mike Ditka and powered by Buddy Ryan's '46' defense, barreled through the season and into America's heads and hearts.

The Bears went 15-1, shut out both of their playoff opponents and blasted the New England Patriots 46-10 in Super Bowl XX. Saturday Night Live created a sketch featuring a radio show hosted by several overweight, sausage-eating, beer-swilling fans with a maniacal passion for Da Bears. Players took part in a video called "The Super Bowl Shuffle" well before they'd clinched a Super Bowl berth.

William "The Refrigerator" Perry. Walter "Sweetness" Payton. Jim McMahon. Dan Hampton. Steve McMichael. Perry, literally, was larger than life.

Did McNabb worship the Bears?

"I did, but that was a long time ago. It was a special time for all Chicagoans and one that we enjoyed," McNabb said. "They've been to the Super Bowl again with Rex (Grossman, McNabb's backup) and everyone enjoyed those two special moments and obviously I've been in the league since then so I've moved on."

Three years ago, when there were rumors of a possible trade that would have sent him from the Eagles to the Bears, McNabb took only minor notice.

"I never really kind of bought into it," McNabb said. "Throughout my career I've heard so much, so that was one where I kind of just sat back and continued to focus on what I was doing. When they got Jay Cutler a couple of years later, they moved on as well."

For the quarterbacks on Sunday, there's going to be a sense not only of what might have been but what was and is.

McNabb might have been a Bear, Grossman actually was for six years and the incumbent, Jay Cutler, was feverishly pursued by the Redskins in 2009 when the Denver Broncos decided to trade him. The Bears outbid everyone, giving up two No. 1 draft picks, a No. 3 and quarterback Kyle Orton. McNabb is in the final season of his contract but said he expects an extension to be worked out "soon."

Larry Weisman, an award-winning journalist during 25 years with USA TODAY, writes for and appears nightly on Redskins Nation on Comcast SportsNet. Read his Redskinsblitz blog at and follow him on

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