ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — The quarterback holding the burgundy No. 5 Washington Redskins jersey was Donovan McNabb. From everything that was said, it might have been simpler to just go ahead and call him John Elway II.
The six-time Pro Bowl star was formally introduced Tuesday at Redskins Park. All things being equal, he would rather be preparing for a 12th season with the Philadelphia Eagles, but an Easter Sunday trade between NFC East rivals has opened what he called "a new chapter in the book of Donovan."
"I've always believed in finishing where you started," McNabb said. "I think there's a lot to be said with that. Not a lot of quarterbacks in this league are able to do that these days. Sometimes change is better. Sometimes you're forced into change. I would have loved to (stay in Philadelphia), but it didn't happen."
Instead, he is with the Redskins and new coach Mike Shanahan, and both went to great lengths to say that trading two draft picks for a 33-year-old quarterback with a few nicks is a solid investment. They did so by repeatedly invoking Elway, who was 34 when Shanahan became coach of the Broncos in 1995.
"I'm turning 34 this year," McNabb said. "And he finished John's career with two Super Bowls. Hopefully I can continue to follow behind that."
It makes for quick answer to the boos McNabb has heard in Philadelphia in recent years.
"People were saying John Elway should retire," Shanahan said, "until he won the Super Bowl."
Before the pursuit of such lofty goals, there were the necessary reflections and thank yous from McNabb to Philadelphia. Most of his words for his former team and city were upbeat and gracious — "I felt I was treated fair" — with maybe a slight dig or two thrown in.
Surprisingly, McNabb said he has spoken "not much" about the trade with Andy Reid, his coach for his entire tenure with the Eagles. He portrayed himself as fallout from a Philadelphia youth movement.
"They're rebuilding, and they're going young," McNabb said. "So I never knew 33 years old was old, but I guess I'm too old."
And, while Shanahan's offense will have its similarities to Reid's, McNabb cited what he thinks will be one substantial difference.
"It starts with the run game," McNabb said. "I know probably a lot of you come from Philly don't know much about that run game. But we will run the ball here."
And, when asked if the rug had been pulled out from under him in Philly, McNabb said: "It did."
"We had two young guys on the outside, a very effective tight end, a young running back, (Brian) Westbrook was coming off an injury, the offensive line was trying to jell, we were mixing guys in, and some guys were hurt," McNabb said. "But they moved in another direction. There's nothing I can do on that particular point."
McNabb said he expects "hopefully cheers" when he returns to the Philadelphia with the Redskins next season, yet he refused to portray it a special date on his mental calendar.
"I don't look at it any different than playing the Giants or Dallas," McNabb said. "Nothing like I'm going to run my head through a locker or start throwing stuff through my house. It's an opportunity for us to play another team."
McNabb was clearly relieved to have constant trade speculation behind him — "I'm just so happy that it's over" — and that he ended up with a team among those at the top of his wish list.
His agent, Fletcher Smith, said he and McNabb didn't end up having to object to an undesirable destination.
"He and Andy have a special relationship, and he did right by Donovan at the end of the day," Smith said. "There wasn't a time when we had to tell a team we weren't going to come."
The next priority is a contract extension for McNabb, whose current deal expires at the end of the upcoming season. McNabb and Shanahan both said the quarterback has a lot left in the tank — again citing Elway as an example — but the coach wouldn't rule out taking a quarterback with the No. 4 overall pick in this month's draft. Given the woeful state of the offensive line, however, it would seem the Redskins would now want to target a player to protect McNabb's blind side.
Another bit of housekeeping for McNabb was a talk with his good friend Jason Campbell, the Redskins' starter for the last 3½ seasons. Shanahan said the Redskins have given Campbell permission to explore a trade up to the April 22-24 draft.
"I let him know that this wasn't one of my plans, to try to come and take his spot," McNabb said. "I told him 'The sky's the limit for you. Continue to hold your head high.'"
McNabb immediately began taking part in the team's offseason conditioning program, but said he'll also take some weeks off to deal with the logistics of moving. He's less than two weeks away from his first Redskins minicamp.
"It feels like being drafted again," McNabb said. "You been selected by a new team. You're going through all the emotions of learning new plays, being with the guys, working out, so it feels like I'm about 22 again."
He laughed and added: "The body may not respond that way."
Redskins news always upstages everything sports in the nation's capital, and McNabb's signing stole much of the thunder from the Washington Nationals opening day game Monday, when President Barack Obama threw out the first pitch. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, in town for the game, turned off his TV in disgust Monday morning when all the talk was about McNabb, and a news helicopter actually followed McNabb as he rode in a limousine from the airport to Redskins Park on Monday afternoon.
He's definitely not in Philly any more.
"That was pretty odd," McNabb said. "But I waved and I just continued to walk right in."