Ravens quarterback Steve McNair started his weekly news conference yesterday with a request.
"No Donovan McNabb questions, please," McNair said with a smile after practice in Owings Mills.
The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback's comments on a national television show Tuesday night about black quarterbacks in the NFL being judged more critically and facing more pressure than their white counterparts remain a touchy subject, and one that McNair, a 13-year veteran, wouldn't touch.
McNair's two backups did.
Kyle Boller, who has received more than his share of criticism from media and fans during his five seasons with the Ravens, recalled what Jim Fassel told him when the former New York Giants coach came to Baltimore at the height of Boller-bashing.
"He said, 'Even Phil Simms got booed in New York after he won a couple of Super Bowls,'" Boller said yesterday.
Boller believes the level of criticism often depends on where a quarterback plays, and not his skin color.
"I don't think anyone would ever individualize your race and say you're this or that," Boller said. "You can be a great quarterback if you're purple or you're white or you're brown, it doesn't matter. I'm a quarterback who's been criticized and I'm Caucasian. Everyone has been criticized."
Asked whether he encountered any racially motivated criticism or pressure during his career at Ohio State, No. 3 quarterback Troy Smith said: "I can't say that I did. Quarterbacks are criticized no matter what the color of their skin."
Ravens coach Brian Billick has coached several black quarterbacks, going back to Warren Moon and Randall Cunningham in Minnesota, then Tony Banks, Cunningham, Jeff Blake and Anthony Wright in Baltimore before McNair and Smith.
When Wright was the starter for the Ravens in 2003, Billick echoed McNabb's current remarks by saying that black quarterbacks were scrutinized more than white quarterbacks.
Billick said yesterday that he hadn't watched the interview with McNabb.
"I'd kind of like to think we're past all that, but that's probably a little naive, too," Billick said.
McNabb told sports commentator James Brown for HBO's Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel: "Every year I'm part of some criticism. But every day that we go through life, you're faced with a lot of adversity. Now the answer is how do you handle the adversity. How do you respond?"
The interview with McNabb was aired a night after he was booed by Eagles fans at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia for much of the second half of a loss to the Washington Redskins.
McNabb said winning and losing often doesn't matter with the way he is treated by fans.
"I pass for 300 yards, our team wins by seven, 'Ah, he could've made this throw, they would have scored if he did this,'" he said.
Asked by Brown whether every quarterback encounters that, McNabb said, "Not everybody."
When Brown brought up Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer and Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts, McNabb said: "I love those guys, but they don't get criticized as much as we do. They don't."
Five black quarterbacks started for their teams last week: along with McNabb, they were Vince Young of the Tennessee Titans, Tarvaris Jackson of the Minnesota Vikings, David Garrard of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Jason Campbell of the Redskins.
Along with McNair and Byron Leftwich, who signed Tuesday with the Atlanta Falcons, the total will shortly be seven. But McNabb said on HBO that the culture of the NFL, of football, has been slow to change and there is still added pressure on black quarterbacks.
'There's not that many African-American quarterbacks, so we have to do a little bit extra," McNabb said.