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Patriots expect T.O. to be on field



Published: Sat, February 5, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Eagles will evaluate the receiver right up until kickoff.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- The New England Patriots expect Terrell Owens to play in the Super Bowl, and they expect the Eagles receiver to be a handful.

"He's not going to be out there on crutches. If he's out, he's going to be able to run and play," the Patriots' Bill Belichick said Friday in the final coaches' news conference before the NFL title game. "Whether we can cover him or not, that remains to be seen. But they're not going to put the guy out there in a wheelchair."

Owens has said he will play in the game even though his doctor refused to clear him following surgery to implant two screws and a plate in his right leg. However, Eagles coach Andy Reid said he might not start.

"Whether he starts or not, that's irrelevant, I think, right now," Reid said. "We've got it broken down by different plays we'd like to see him in there. If one of those happens to be the first play, it's the first play, and if not, then Freddie [Mitchell] will be there."

Owens severely sprained his ankle and fractured his right fibula in a Dec. 19 victory over Dallas. He missed the last two games of the regular season and playoff victories over Minnesota and Atlanta.

Make way for T.O.

Players were unavailable for interviews on Friday, but earlier Owens said:

"I think the fans of Philadelphia are waiting for me to come out of that tunnel. They don't have to wait any longer. They need to know I am coming out of that tunnel one way or another."

Reid said Owens' condition is evaluated daily.

"He practiced harder yesterday than he did the day before. But I think I'm going to be saying that all the way up to kickoff, just to make sure that he feels good on game day," Reid said. "We've got to put him through some exercises and see how he does. But up to this point he's done very well, and he's increased his workload every day."

In his first season with the Eagles after eight years in San Francisco, Owens led Philadelphia with 77 catches for 1,200 yards and 14 TDs and made the Pro Bowl.

"We've seen plenty of him," Belichick said. "Owens has had a great year and played a lot before the Dallas game. He had big games in virtually every game he played in until that point. We understand what he's capable of doing. We expect him to be at his best. We expect all the other players to be at their best if they're on the field and we'll try to defend accordingly."

Belichick said the team would fill its remaining spot by promoting offensive lineman Billy Yates to the 53-man roster. He is listed as a guard, but the Patriots previously had only two tackles on the roster and he could be used as a backup there.

The 24-year-old Yates appeared in three games for Miami in 2003 and was released by the Dolphins on Sept. 5.

The Patriots signed him to their practice squad a week later.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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