Scout Report: T.O. - Will He or Won't He?

<p>With uncertainty surrounding the Eagle organization and the status of T.O.'s injury, head coach Andy Reid will continue to plan on not having TO around while quietly hoping for a miraculous recovery.</p> <p>Insiders report on TO, the ripple effect injuries have had on the team, and possible strategy moves the Eagles will use when they meet the Patriots in the Superbowl. </p>

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: Insiders Report

The uncertainty over whether Terrell Owens will play in Super Bowl XXXIX likely will carry over into next week.

On Tuesday, Baltimore-based foot specialist Dr. Mark Myerson, who performed the surgery on the Eagles wide receiver's injured ankle last month, examined Owens and would not clear him to play against the New England Patriots. But that doesn't necessarily mean Owens won't play.

The Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore issued a carefully crafted statement that essentially absolves Myerson of any blame if Owens does play and re-injures his leg or ankle. "Based on examinations to date of Owens' leg and ankle, Dr. Myerson is extremely pleased with Owens' recuperation and the progress expected from such a superbly conditioned and motivated athlete," the statement said.

"Dr. Myerson has maintained that surgery of this nature normally requires a recovery period of 8-10 weeks. Since the requisite healing time has not yet passed, and based upon the clinical examination of Owens today, Dr. Myerson informed Owens he cannot medically release him to play in the upcoming Super Bowl.

"Dr. Myerson also noted that further acceleration of the rehabilitation process poses the same risk for injury. Any activity that may impede the patient's progress or cause further damage, no matter how strong the appeal, is not recommended."

Myerson operated on Owens' ankle on Dec. 19. From the outset, he has been skeptical about Eagles trainer Rick Burkholder's comments that the five-time Pro-Bowler could feasibly play in the Super Bowl if the Eagles made it that far. Myerson inserted two stabilizing screws and a metal plate in Owens' ankle.

But Owens has repeatedly vowed that he will play. He was on the sideline in civvies Sunday for the Eagles' 27-10 win over Atlanta in the NFC Championship Game, jumping up and down and leading cheers while standing on a sideline bench. He has been running in the pool at the club's Novacare Complex, but the real test will come when he tries to run and cut on the ankle out of water, which he'll do this week.

Owens doesn't need to be cleared by Myerson to play. But he does need the green light from Burkholder and head coach Andy Reid, who will put a lot of weight on Myerson's recommendation. Then again, Myerson's off-the-record recommendation might be a little different than the Tuesday statement, which was written mainly to protect him legally.

"It comes down to can he do it," Reid said. "He has a couple of different things in there. He has the pain from the broken part of the leg (the non weight-bearing fibula, which he fractured). But he really doesn't have much (pain) with the ankle. He has to run on it. We have to see how that holds up when he runs."

Asked whether he, Owens, Myerson or Burkholder would make the final decision on whether T.O. can play, Reid said: "It's probably a little bit of each. Inevitably, he has to be able to physically play."

Eagles linebacker Ike Reese said that if Owens can suit up next week, even if he isn't able to play very much, it would give the team the kind of emotional lift the New York Knicks got when injured center Willis Reed limped out of the locker room and played in the 1970 NBA finals, which the Knicks won.

SERIES HISTORY: 10th meeting. Eagles lead the series, 6-3. The Patriots won the last meeting in Week 2 of the '03 season in Philadelphia, whipping the Eagles, 31-10. Tom Brady completed 30 of 44 passes for 255 yards and three touchdowns in that game.

NOTES, QUOTES

  • One of the reasons the Eagles feel they didn't play up to their potential in their first three trips to the NFC Championship Game was because they were too tight. That definitely wasn't the case Sunday. Coach Andy Reid encouraged two of his veteran leaders -- middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter and Hugh Douglas -- to keep everybody loose before their game against the Falcons. Forty-five minutes before the most important game of their lives, Trotter and Douglas held an impromptu "dance party" in the locker room. And guess who they coaxed into participating" The club's owner, Jeff Lurie. Lurie called his performance "a white man's attempt at trying to be a decent dancer. Not a very good attempt, but at least the guys were laughing like crazy. I was just having some fun. They were loose. I was loose." Said wide receiver and dance critic Greg Lewis of Lurie's performance: "He's a great guy, but he needs to come to my dance school. I'll have to give him a few moves." Lurie said he's up for a Super Bowl Sunday encore. "Coaches and players win games, believe me," he said. "But in two weeks, if invited, I'll do the same thing again."

  • Six years ago, the Eagles were coming off a 3-13 season and the team's unhappy fans were in a hangin' mood. The popularity of owner Jeff Lurie and club president Joe Banner had hit rock bottom. After firing coach Ray Rhodes, the pair went against the recommendation of then football operations chief Tom Modrak, who wanted to hire Jim Haslett, and hired an unproven quarterbacks coach for the Green Bay Packers, Andy Reid. "We were at the point where the feelings were so negative and the skepticism of the hiring of Andy so great, had that been the wrong decision, who knows where we would be right now," Banner said. "I don't think there was much appetite left for the fans to give us any more time. That was the crossroads in our running of this franchise. There were eight teams looking for head coaches at the time. We were the only team that even bothered to interview Andy, the only team that even considered him, including the team that he was working for, to be a head coach. We were both proud of the fact that we knew what a big risk it was by definition, to hire him, and yet we weren't afraid to hire him; to do what we believe was right to do in light of where we were at the time. More than once over the last few years, we've said, `Thank God we got that right." Because who knows where we would be if we didn't."

  • With tight end Chad Lewis KO'd from the Super Bowl with a Lisfranc tear in his left foot, the Eagles signed former Eagle Jeff Thomason. The 35-year-old Thomason spent the 2000-2002 seasons with the Eagles, but hasn't played since.

    He has been working as an assistant project manager for Toll Brothers construction in Chesterfield, N.J., which is about 50 miles northeast of Philadelphia. The first call he got was from his friend Lewis, who, a day earlier, he had watched catch two touchdown passes in the Eagles' 27-10 NFC Championship Game win over Atlanta. Lewis told Thomason about his injury and then said he was going to push for the club to re-sign him.

    "Chad's an amazing person to be thinking of someone else at a time like that," Thomason said.

    Thomason has two weeks vacation coming from Toll Brothers, and probably will use it to play in the Super Bowl. Besides starting tight end L.J. Smith, the Eagles have another tight end on the roster, Mike Bartrum. But he doubles as the club's long-snapper.

    Lewis had been the backup long-snapper. The Eagles are reluctant to use Bartrum much without a backup snapper. The advantage of signing Thomason is that he's familiar with the Eagles' offense as well as their special teams schemes. "I have 10 years in this offense (he played with the Packers before he came to the Eagles) and I'm pretty familiar with all of (special teams coordinator) John Harbaugh's special-teams calls," he said.

  • Quarterback Donovan McNabb hasn't thrown a postseason interception yet this year. He didn't have one in 26 attempts Sunday and didn't have one in 33 attempts against the Vikings. This season, he has thrown just eight interceptions in 528 attempts. That's one every 66 passes.

  • Eagles running backs have not lost a fumble on a rushing attempt in 612 carries. The last one: Oct. 26, 2003 v. the Jets by Correll Buckhalter.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I probably won't be getting on that, you know, and have that thing tip over. We would all be upset." -- Quarterback Donovan McNabb on whether he will participate in the Campbell's Soup Chuck Wagon Challenge.

BY THE NUMBERS: For the first time in their four NFC title game appearances, the Eagles didn't have a turnover Sunday against the Falcons. Their turnover differential in their three losses was minus-8. Sunday it was plus-1.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Eagles used quite a bit of two-tight end formations last week in their win over Atlanta. But with their No. 2 tight end, Chad Lewis, out with a broken foot, they might reduce the number dramatically against the Patriots. They signed 35-year-old Jeff Thomason earlier this week to replace Lewis. But while Thomason, who played for the Eagles from 2000 to 2002, is familiar with the Eagles' offense, he hasn't played football in two years.

If Terrell Owens is indeed activated for the game, he probably will have a very limited role. With two screws still in his ankle, his cutting ability is going to be limited.

  • TE Jeff Thomason, who was signed earlier this week after Chad Lewis broke his foot against Atlanta, will be the club's No. 2 tight end against the Patriots. How much he'll play remains to be seen.
  • WR Terrell Owens will attempt to run this week for the first time since December 19 surgery on his ankle.
  • LB Mark Simoneau, who missed the Eagles' first two playoff games with a high ankle sprain, practiced Wednesday, but his status for Super Bowl XXXIX remains unclear. If he's not anywhere close to 100 percent, Keith Adams will start in his place on the weak side.
  • RB Brian Westbrook may be used as a punt returner against the Patriots. Westbrook led the NFC in punt returns last season, but was relieved of those duties this season because of his increased role in the offense.

INJURY IMPACT: Terrell Owens is hopeful of playing in Super Bowl XXXIX against the Patriots. If he can't, Freddie Mitchell will continue to start in his place, with Todd Pinkston as the No. 2 wideout and Greg Lewis the slot receiver. ... The loss of Chad Lewis (broken foot) probably will reduce the number of two-tight end sets the Eagles use against New England.


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