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Coaches Have Their Final Say

T.O. Remains Topic Of Conversation

By Nunyo Demasio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 5, 2005; Page D09

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Feb. 4 -- After concluding his final news conference before Sunday's Super Bowl, Coach Andy Reid stood for more than one minute behind a circular table with the 2005 Lombardi Trophy and a Philadelphia Eagles helmet at Jacksonville's Convention Center. More than a dozen photographers snapped pictures amid a kaleidoscope of lights. Reid, in an olive-colored suit, matching tie and white shirt, appeared to be much more comfortable posing than during his interview session, which lasted less than eight minutes.

Almost an hour later, with the Eagles' helmet replaced by the Patriots', New England Coach Bill Belichick spoke three times longer and briefly stood while photographers snapped pictures. Belichick discussed topics ranging from the evolution of his 3-4 defense to the difficulty of replacing coordinators Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel and acted like the news conference was old hat.

New England's Bill Belichick says it doesn't matter who is favored in Sunday's game. (Mike Blake -- Reuters)

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Weis Is Working Overtime (washingtonpost.com, Feb 4, 2005)
Thomason Settles Into Role With Eagles (washingtonpost.com, Feb 3, 2005)
E. Smith Retirement May Come as Cowboy (washingtonpost.com, Feb 2, 2005)
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Despite the Patriots striving to become the second team to win three Super Bowls over four years, the most dominant story line this week has been star wideout Terrell Owens's availability for Sunday's game at Alltel Stadium. Neither news conference Friday was particularly revealing, with several answers repeated from the previous interview sessions. Owens apparently has healed enough from a serious ankle injury for Reid to consider starting him, but Belichick indicated he won't adjust his defense to the possibility that Philadelphia's 6-foot-3, 226-pound wideout would be a decoy.

"He's not going to be out there on crutches. If he's out, he's going to be able to run and play," said Belichick, wearing a gray suit, pink shirt and matching tie. "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."

When Owens severely sprained his right ankle and broke his right fibula during a Dec. 19 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, he had only a slim chance of participating in the Super Bowl if the Eagles made it. Owens's operation required two screws and a plate to be inserted in his right leg, and the surgeon declined to clear Owens to play.

Both teams underwent light practices Friday, but the workouts took place after their news conferences -- Reid's was at 8:30 a.m. and Belichick's at 9:30 a.m. -- so Reid couldn't give an update on Owens. Reid noted Owens's condition has improved incrementally since Monday when Owens participated in his first practice since the injury.

An Owens start, Reid said Friday, is contingent on the Eagles' first offensive play. "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."

If Owens doesn't start, he will be Philadelphia's No. 3 wideout behind Todd Pinkston and Mitchell, both of whom helped the Eagles score 54 points in their two playoff games.

Owens's biggest challenge appears to be cutting and shifting direction. But the development validates Owens's declaration -- after he partly cited divine intervention -- last week, when his status for the Super Bowl remained tenuous.

Players weren't available to the media Friday, but on Tuesday Owens dismissed any thoughts of being used as a decoy: "If you guys are going to look for me to just go out there and dilly dally around, it's not going to happen."

Despite making his first appearance in the Super Bowl as a head coach, Reid said nothing has surprised him this week. On Friday, Reid once again wore a Super Bowl ring on his right hand. Reid got it while a Green Bay Packers assistant in Super Bowl XXXI. He has said wearing the ring is motivation for his players.

Reid has made all the right moves leading to Philadelphia's first Super Bowl appearance in 24 years. He was criticized for resting most of his top players, including quarterback Donovan McNabb and tailback Brian Westbrook, in the final two games of the season -- both blowout losses. But the Eagles got on track in the playoffs, beating the Vikings, 27-14, and Falcons, 27-10.

This week, including Friday, Reid allowed his players to go out at night after having breakfast and lunch as a team. The regimen is similar to Philadelphia's regular season games. "We tried to keep it as close to our normal schedule . . . as we possibly could," Reid said. "They're given some per diem money to go out and enjoy themselves."

Reid said the Patriots deserved being seven-point favorites -- New England has won eight straight postseason games -- but added his players didn't look at themselves as underdogs. Belichick, who defeated the heavily favored St. Louis Rams for his first Super Bowl win in 2002, dismissed the point spread.

A victory would give Belichick a 10-1 postseason record, which would be the best in NFL history. A Philadelphia victory would give the city its first championship since 1983, when the Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.

"We're concerned with how we play on Sunday," Belichick said. "That's what will determine the outcome of the game. . . . It doesn't matter what anybody thinks is going to happen before the game."

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