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EAGLES Players tired of the no-T.O. issue



Published: Fri, January 14, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Philadelphia hasn't played a meaningful game without Terrell Owens this year.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Terrell Owens came to Philadelphia to help the Eagles get to the Super Bowl. He can only watch as they try to get there.

While the Eagles prepare for Sunday's NFC divisional playoff game against Minnesota, Owens is spending most of his time in the trainer's room, hoping to return if Philadelphia can win its next two games without the Pro Bowl wide receiver.

"He is making progress," Eagles coach Andy Reid said three weeks after Owens had surgery to repair torn ligaments in his right ankle. "We will just see what time does with it in the next couple of weeks."

Owens has an outside chance of playing if the Eagles (13-3) reach the Super Bowl on Feb. 6. First, they'll have to beat the Vikings (9-8), who upset Green Bay 31-17 in a wild card game last weekend.

The T.O. effect

The injury to Owens last month was a devastating blow for a team that dominated the NFC and clinched the No. 1 seed in the conference after just 14 games.

In his first season in Philadelphia after eight years in San Francisco, Owens invigorated the Eagles with his attitude, enthusiasm and stellar performance, adding a swagger to a team that desperately needed a personality.

With him, the offense was nearly unstoppable, averaging 25.4 points in 14 games. Without him, the Eagles haven't played a game that matters, losing the final two regular-season games with mostly reserves in the lineup because nothing was on the line.

His teammates are tired of hearing questions about whether they can win without him. After all, the Eagles played in the past three NFC championship games -- and lost -- while Owens was with the 49ers.

"He was brought here to get us over the hump in the championship game," linebacker Ike Reese said. "Believe me, it would be a lot easier if he was with us. But this team has a lot of confidence and won a lot of games before T.O. came here. We can get it done without him."

Bringing up the slack

Five-time Pro Bowl quarterback Donovan McNabb had the best season of his six-year career, largely because of Owens' presence. At the time he was injured, Owens had 77 catches for 1,200 yards and led the NFL with 14 touchdowns.

McNabb, who threw for a team-record 3,875 yards and 31 touchdowns, has embraced the challenge of leading the Eagles to the Super Bowl without his main target.

"We have more weapons than just T.O.," McNabb said. "Understand, we do not have to replace T.O. We're not going to just sit back and throw the ball 12 times to one particular guy. We didn't do that when T.O. was in the game.

"We're going to spread it around and do what we need to do in order to win the games. It's not one or two guys trying to fill in for T.O."

Versatile running back Brian Westbrook is the team's primary threat now.

He gained 1,515 yards from scrimmage and scored nine touchdowns in 13 games.




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