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Burgess blasts back after 2 major injuries



Published: Fri, January 28, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Derrick Burgess hopes he can carry momentum to the Super Bowl.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Tom Brady must know all about Philadelphia defensive end Derrick Burgess by now.

Burgess made a name for himself in the NFC title game, even though Michael Vick had no idea who was knocking him around -- and out -- of the playoffs. All Vick knew was that Jevon Kearse was on one end and "another good defensive lineman" on the other of an Eagles defense that shut down running lanes and made Vick miserable.

It is easy to see why Vick had no idea about Burgess.

The fourth-year pro missed all but one game the last two years because of injuries. But his two-sack performance against the Falcons put everyone on notice that he is all the way back.

"To go through so much and be where I am right now with my teammates, it's just a beautiful thing," Burgess said Thursday.

Test of manhood

Burgess missed the last 15 games of the 2002 season with a broken foot. Then last year, only days before the season opener, Burgess tore his Achilles' tendon and was out for the entire season.

"The second time it happened, it was like, 'Here we go again.' It was a test of my manhood," Burgess said. "Let's see what you can do now."

Burgess wasn't totally immune this season, either. He was off to a solid start with 2 1/2 sacks and started 11 of 12 games until he separated his sternum against Green Bay on Dec. 5, causing him to miss the last four games of the regular season.

Burgess returned to start Philadelphia's first playoff game against Minnesota and did nothing in that one. No sacks, no tackles, no impact.

Against the Falcons, Burgess was everywhere, helping the Eagles snap a three-year NFC title-game losing streak. He harassed Vick mercilessly and helped limit the NFL's top-ranked rushing offense to 99 yards. Burgess' six tackles were the most among Eagles defensive linemen.

Ready for more

Now he wants a similar performance against Brady and the Patriots in the Super Bowl on Feb. 6.

"It feels good for the moment, but that was last week," Burgess said. "It's done now. Now, I've got to get out here this week and do it all over again."

Burgess benefited from a tip that Eagles defensive line coach Tommy Brasher gave him. Brasher suggested that Kearse and Burgess swap sides. That put Burgess back on his more natural left side and the speedier Kearse on the right, allowing him to better fill the spot where the left-handed Vick was more likely to run.

When Vick tried to run away from Kearse, he ran right into Burgess.

"It was just one of those games where everything fell into place," Burgess said. "It was just comfortable being on the left side again. I'm a lot more comfortable on the left side than the right."

Kearse said the versatility made them dangerous.

"This will help us out because we can switch sides anytime during the game and we can throw some changeups at them," he said.

Sack attack

Burgess, the Eagles' third-round pick in 2001, had seven sacks, including one in the playoffs, in limited action as a rookie before he started breaking down.

One season-ending injury made him determined to return stronger than ever. The next one made him wonder why the injuries kept happening. Last summer, it was hard for Burgess not to dwell on the nearly two full seasons he missed and wonder whether it could happen again.

"I don't want to say I had doubts, but I'll say concerns," he said. "But once you step on the field, it's all out the window. At minicamp, it was over with. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen."

Burgess is on his way to the Super Bowl, hoping everybody knows his name.




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