If there is any team in the NFL that understands the plight of an endangered species known as the quarterback, it is the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles understand because they lead the quarterback TKO count with six. That's right, the Eagles alone have knocked six quarterbacks (and counting) out of their games.

As quarterbacks continue to fall like bowling pins -- 12 have been injured over the last two weeks to either end their seasons or limit their playing time -- the Eagles are proof that rules alone cannot protect the league's fragile centerpieces.

There is even a technique NFL coaches teach -- and the Eagles use -- for knocking quarterbacks out of the game. It's a bear-hug-then-body-slam maneuver.

In the Eagles' case, call it the Philly takedown.

When asked how many quarterbacks he thought they had knocked out of a game this season, Eagles defensive tackle Jerome Brown guessed "about eight?" When told that it was six he quipped, "Well I missed a couple. We still have a {game} to go though. You never can tell."

"I don't think it's their intention to put any quarterbacks out," said Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman, who suffered a separated shoulder on Sunday against the Eagles on a Philly takedown by Clyde Simmons. "I think that because of their style of play and the type of athletes they have it occurs more with their team. I would hate for anybody to suggest that this was intentional on their part."

But Eagles cornerback Eric Allen seemed to suggest that it was when he said, "Our guys are great at the technique of squeezing guys, then falling on them. That's the way to put a guy out."

That's what happened to Aikman. Simmons wrapped Aikman in a tight bearhug then body-slammed him to the turf, separating his right shoulder and likely ending his season. He will be replaced by either former Redskins backup Babe Laufenberg, who threw four interceptions after stepping in for Aikman, or veteran Cliff Stoudt, whom Dallas signed yesterday.

The Eagles had previously knocked out Atlanta's Chris Miller (shoulder), New England's Steve Grogan (lower back), and Green Bay's Anthony Dilweg (arch). Washington's Stan Humphries (knee) and Jeff Rutledge (thumb) were injured by Philadelphia in the same game.

Miller was the only quarterback of the group to play the following week (several games later he too would be knocked out for the season). None of the other quarterbacks Philadelphia downed has since returned.

Against Washington, the quarterback carnage was so bad Eagles owner Norman Braman said yesterday that he called Redskins Executive Vice President John Kent Cooke after the Nov. 12 game and expressed his sympathy to the Washington quarterbacks and Redskins organization.

"Nobody likes to see a player hurt," Braman said. "Nobody. Because everyone knows it could happen to them. They could be the next one to go down. Players bragging about hurting a quarterback . . . that's not sincere. It's just player talk."

Of course the Eagles aren't to blame for all of those 911 calls from quarterbacks. Warren Moon, the Houston Oilers quarterback and the league's top passer, dislocated the thumb on his passing hand and will be out for at least three weeks. The Oilers will be forced to attempt to win their first AFC Central title against Pittsburgh on Sunday with backup Cody Carlson.

San Francisco's Joe Montana watched the 49ers lose to New Orleans on Sunday because of a pulled abdominal muscle. New England's Tommy Hodson sprained his ankle. Bad luck Wade Wilson separated his right shoulder after missing three months because of a thumb injury. Kansas City's Steve DeBerg played with a dislocated left pinky and still managed to go 19 of 27 for 251 yards on Sunday.

The list goes on: Chicago's Mike Tomczak filled in for Jim Harbaugh (shoulder). Green Bay's Blair Kiel, in for Dilweg (arch) who was in for Don Majkowski, couldn't keep the Packers from being eliminated from playoff contention by Detroit on Saturday. The New York Giants' Jeff Hostetler isn't the quality of starter Phil Simms (foot), but he still helped the NFC East champions squeak by the Cardinals.

Cleveland's Mike Pagel was in for Bernie Kosar (thumb) and the offense fumbled an NFL record-tying eight times. Scott Campbell (shoulder), after replacing Miller, was knocked out and replaced by Hugh Millen, a career backup. Atlanta Coach Jerry Glanville said afterward the team was held together by "spit and glue."

The Bills were held together by backup Frank Reich, who looked just as sharp as starter Jim Kelly (knee), out two weeks with ligament and cartilage damage.

Why all the ailing bodies? Several players and others said simply that quarterback injuries are cyclical. Patriots General Manager Patrick Sullivan warns not to put too much credence into the theory that because there are bigger and faster defensive linemen there are going to be more quarterbacks on crutches.

"Aren't the offensive linemen bigger and faster as well?" Sullivan asked. "There is nothing to be made of this. There is not one thing that you can point to and say, 'That's it. That's why so many quarterbacks are hurt right now.' "

Aikman said that quarterback injuries "seem to go in waves," and he's right. On Nov. 13, 1977, eight quarterbacks were seriously injured. Three, including Fran Tarkenton, broke legs. In 1986 seven starting quarterbacks went down in Week 7 and by the middle of the season 13 starters had missed one or more games.

"There are times when you just have to take the sack," said Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham, who despite such athletic moves as jumping over cornerbacks has remained relatively injury-free this season. "These are just unfortunate things that happen."

And this year, they seem to happen more when the Eagles are on the field.


INJURY: Dislocated right thumb.

REPLACED BY: Cody Carlson.


INJURY: Sprained left ankle.

REPLACED BY: Marc Wilson.


INJURY: Strained stomach muscle.

REPLACED BY: Steve Young.


INJURY: Broken left pinky.

REPLACED BY: Still playing.


INJURY: Separated right shoulder.

REPLACED BY: Rich Gannon.


INJURY: Right thumb.

REPLACED BY: Mike Pagel.


INJURY: Sprained foot.

REPLACED BY: Jeff Hostetler.


INJURY: Sore right shoulder.

REPLACED BY: Hugh Millen.


INJURY: Sprained left knee.

REPLACED BY: Frank Reich.


INJURY: Separated right shoulder.

REPLACED BY: Mike Tomczak.


INJURY: Strained arch.

REPLACED BY: Blair Kiel.


INJURY: Dislocated right shoulder.

REPLACED BY: Babe Laufenberg.