JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Jan. 30 -- The Philadelphia Eagles arrived here Sunday with plans to step up wide receiver Terrell Owens's activity level in the coming days, in hopes that he can practice fully by midweek and play in Sunday's Super Bowl against the New England Patriots at Alltel Stadium. The Eagles will have Owens test his severely sprained ankle a little more strenuously Monday, Coach Andy Reid said.
"Terrell Owens will do a couple things" Monday, Reid said at a news conference shortly after the Eagles traveled from Philadelphia. "We'll take it day by day. There's no timetable. . . . He felt pretty good. We'll see. He's not there yet. We'll have to see this week."
Owens is trying to return from a severe ankle sprain and fractured fibula that caused him to miss the final 2 1/2 games of the regular season and the Eagles' two wins during the NFC playoffs. The Eagles intensified Owens's rehabilitation and had him begin a running program last week even though Baltimore-based orthopedist Mark Myerson, who performed surgery last month on the five-time Pro Bowl wideout's ankle, said after examining Owens on Tuesday that he would not clear the receiver to play in the Super Bowl seven weeks after getting hurt. Myerson said that the injury requires at least eight weeks of rehabilitation.
But the Eagles and Owens are moving forward, and if he doesn't suffer a setback this week, it appears likely that he will at least serve as the team's third wide receiver Sunday, behind Todd Pinkston and Freddie Mitchell. He probably isn't capable of being the player who was one of the league's most valuable this season before he got hurt, providing 77 catches for 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns. But he could help, serving as a decoy if nothing else. And the Eagles probably will keep the Patriots guessing all week about Owens's status.
The Eagles apparently hope that Owens can practice at something resembling full speed Wednesday. He didn't participate in the club's practices last week in Philadelphia, and some Eagles players have grown weary of the subject.
"It's something you all can talk about," quarterback Donovan McNabb said to reporters after Sunday's arrival. "If he plays, you'll talk about it. If he doesn't, you'll talk about it. We just need to focus on what we're going to do. . . . If T.O. is out there or not, we're going to run our offense."
The Eagles got by during the playoffs with Pinkston, Mitchell and Greg Lewis picking up the slack at wide receiver, with tailback Brian Westbrook being even more of a focal point of the offense and with McNabb keeping tight ends Chad Lewis and L.J. Smith involved. They'll have to face the Patriots without Chad Lewis, who suffered a severe foot sprain on the second of his two touchdown catches against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC title game. Smith takes over as the starter at tight end.
Reid coached in two Super Bowls at an assistant with the Green Bay Packers, but has gotten to the game for the first time as a head coach. He said he won't keep his players too tightly under wraps this week.
"I trust my guys will do the right thing," Reid said. "They're down here to play a football game. I'm not going to treat them like little kids. . . . It was fun today. When we get into the grind, it's going to be all football. We're not here on vacation. The reality sets in once you get on the practice field and in the meeting room. We had practice last week. We came in very businesslike. We still kept a sense of humor -- not uptight, by any means. We got a lot of work in [but] we need to fine-tune things."
Reid said he does plan to have a word with Mitchell, who riled some Patriots players with comments that he didn't know the names of New England's defensive backs. The last thing that Reid needs is for the Patriots, winners of two of the past three Super Bowls, to have a motivational edge.
"I haven't got ahold of him yet," Reid said. "That's going to be between Freddie and me."
Said McNabb: "If you need someone making a comment to motivate you, you shouldn't be playing in this game. This is just exciting for all of us, and we can't wait for it to happen."
Reid said it's possible Westbrook will do some punt returning against the Patriots. Westbrook was the Eagles' primary punt returner last season, when he had two touchdowns on punt returns, but was regarded as too valuable to perform the duties on a regular basis this season.