T.O. all the talk as game nears

By Staff Writer
February 3, 2005

The T.O. watch is on. Two days into the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl XXXIX experience, there has been only one official sighting of their brilliant, yet controversial wide receiver, Terrell Owens.

Coach Andy Reid said Owens took part, for a few plays at least, _ in the Eagles’ workout Monday.

“We limited what he did,” Reid said, “but he did it well and he did it with the team. And he moved around pretty good.

“We’ll see how he continues, see how he feels tomorrow morning, see how he continues throughout the week.”

Aside from quarterbacks Donovan McNabb of the Eagles and Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, Owens might be the most important player to play or not play in the Super Bowl game Sunday.

Until he suffered a sprained ankle and broken fibula in the Eagles’ 14th game of the season, Dec. 19 against the Dallas Cowboys, Owens was having an all-pro season – 77 catches for 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns.

He vowed to return to play in the Super Bowl assuming the Eagles made it that far and he’s sticking to his story. And although he hasn’t been given medical clearance to play, early indications are favorable.

The indications aren’t coming directly from Owens, however. Since arriving Sunday in Jacksonville, he has been kept under wraps. He was not among the six Eagles players available for interviews Sunday, and he was not among the six who took questions Monday.

So the Terrell-hungry media has been pumping coaches and teammates for the latest information on Owens’ condition, his role in practices and the possibility that he will play Sunday at Alltel Stadium.

Safety Brian Dawkins was asked if he expects Owens to play against New England.

“I wouldn’t bet against it,” Dawkins said. “I would not bet against us.”

McNabb joked momentarily about not noticing Owens on the practice field, but then agreed that Owens’ presence in the lineup makes him a better quarterback.

“He did make some big plays for us,” McNabb said. “I did what I had to do to try to make sure we were all in a good position, and he did an excellent job of coming in and presenting a different type of feel for our passing attack.”

For all of his outrageous behavior at San Francisco dancing on the Cowboys’ star, pulling out a marker to autograph a football after scoring a touchdown Owens made an immediate and huge impact after the Eagles acquired him in an off-season trade.

Some think his flamboyant personality took the pressure off his Philadelphia teammates, who went into the season under the stigma of losing three consecutive NFC championship games.

But more than anything else, he produced on the field. Owens had 100 or more receiving yards in seven of the 14 games he played. He scored three touchdowns each against the New York Giants and Dallas, two against Cleveland and scored once in another six games.

In Owens’ absence, McNabb has thrown to receivers Freddie Mitchell and Todd Pinkston and running back Brian Westbrook.

But if Owens can play and if he is near 100 percent efficiency he will give the Eagles the most explosive offensive weapon in the game and give the Patriots’ defense greater cause for concern.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick is taking no chances on being taken by surprise. He said he expects Owens to play.

“Of course,” Belichick said. “We expect everybody to be at their very best for this game. I hope that we are, and I expect our opponents to be. That’s the only way we ever think about it. We never expect anything less than our opponents’ best; that’s what we try to get ready for.

“We got to prepare for all the players. Anybody who’s on the active roster could potentially be in the game. We need to know their strengths, how they’ve been utilized in the past, what skills they bring to the game.

“And certainly we’ve had a good opportunity to look at Terrell and what he’s done this year. He’s had a great year in terms of production and how he’s utilized in their offense. We’ll defend him accordingly.”

In the pool report issued after the Eagles’ practice Monday morning, it was reported that Owens took part in some of the 30 offensive plays and was thrown the ball each time he ran a pass route.

When he wasn’t practicing a play, Owens spent much of the session playing catch with one of the backup quarterbacks, Koy Detmer or Jeff Blake, or with practice squad quarterback Andy Hall. After his final play, Owens high-fived Mitchell and Pinkston.

Reid was asked if there were any chance Owens could suffer long-term damage if he played Sunday.

“We have checked into that,” Reid said.

“Could the same injury occur? Yes, that could occur, but it won’t, it won’t, damage it any further than what he has.”

So the watching and the waiting continue. As well as the wondering.

Reid was asked if he would say whether he expects Owens to play.

“No, I can’t,” he said. “I’ll have to see how he does here in the next few days.”

The T.O. watch might not end until Sunday.

Posted to the web by Shawn Rice

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