TAMPA, JAN. 2 -- The Philadelphia Eagles say they are not about injuring opposing players, but if that happens along the way . . . well, that's the way the Buddyball bounces.
"I want our football team to be known as a physical team -- our offense and our defense," said Eagles Coach Buddy Ryan, emperor of what many consider the National Football League's Evil Empire. "Those are the kinds of teams that usually win in the end."
It hasn't quite worked out that way for the Eagles, at least not yet. They will be seeking their first playoff victory in three tries under Ryan when they play the Washington Redskins in an NFC wild-card game Saturday in Philadelphia. But this year, the Eagles seem more ornery and vicious than ever -- particularly on defense. They like to talk about it too.
"That talking, that intimidation, all that kind of stuff brings this group together," defensive coordinator Jeff Fisher said. "They do it together. It's not just one or two. They all do it -- and they all enjoy it."
Saftey Andre Waters: "To me, 60 percent of this game is won on intimidation. If you can intimidate your opponent, you've done over half of your job. Now the only thing you have to do is apply your ability and your talent."
Defensive tackle Mike Golic: "I think what we're known for around the league is teams knowing they're going to get hit when they play us. I think if we can instill that in the backs of their minds -- that they're going to get hit no matter what -- it's going to work to our advantage."
Defensive end Reggie White on the Eagles' frightening habit of injuring opposing quarterbacks: "Well, I guess it just happens. Sometimes you can hit a guy the wrong way, and it's going to happen. You don't want to see anybody's career ended, but as a team, you're happy to see that because it makes the next opponent's quarterback think about what's happened."
And maybe it's just coincidence, but Philadelphia is 5-0 in games during which the opposing team's starting quarterback had to leave because of injury.
A big part of the reason the Eagles have knocked out a total of six quarterbacks in those five games is the size, speed and strength of their defensive line. White is 6 feet 5, 285 pounds; tackle Jerome Brown (who may miss the game with an injury) is 6-2, 295 pounds; end Clyde Simmons is 6-6, 275 pounds.
"When those big old guys fall on you," Waters said, "most of the time, you're going to get hurt."
Another reason why Philadelphia is so hard on quarterbacks is its defensive philosophy. Fisher said the Eagles usually commit anywhere from five to seven players to pass rush. The attitude is that if an opposing team's offense can make big plays, fine. But the Eagles bet that won't happen very often. It's all part of the intimidation factor.
Although Fisher said he doesn't believe that even his scheme and players can make an opposing team feel intimidated before a game begins, the Eagles actually seem to believe there are teams that are afraid of playing them.
"The finesse teams, like the Rams, they are afraid," Waters said. "When you get a finesse team against a physical team, obviously the finesse team is afraid of the physical team."
Although the Eagles believe the Redskins are a physical team, they also believe they have a chance to rattle quarterback Mark Rypien.
"I've never seen a quarterback, where if you hit him, it doesn't rattle him a little bit -- whether he wanted it to or not," Ryan said. "I mean, you get some hits on, they're human beings, they start wondering."
Said Golic: "Some people like to hang in there and they'll take a hit, like a Jim Kelly, and there are others that when they see somebody out of the corner of their eye, they want to get rid of the ball."
Asked if Rypien falls into the latter category, Golic replied: "With our notoriety of hitting quarterbacks, I think he definitely wants to get rid of the ball. But if you give him time, he's a hell of a quarterback."
The Eagles' tough-guy image extends to the offense as well. Wearing his personalized "Gang Green" baseball cap, tackle Reggie Singletary said: "Defensive players love being around the ball, but so do us offensive linemen.
"We work on trying to get five linemen downfield every play. We do it, and people don't like it. They don't like it when after the initial hit is made by one of their guys, we're downfield making hits on them before they can lay some more hits on our guy. They look at us as being nasty."
Which is just fine with Ryan. According to offensive tackle Ron Heller, Ryan is very selective about who plays for this team. He said Ryan will take players who may not be quite as strong or run quite as fast if they are "the type of people you'd want in a street fight, people where the only way to stop 'em is to kill 'em."
Ryan then takes his players and starts making outrageous statements about them. "He challenges you by bragging about you," Heller said. "And his confidence trickles right down to the players."
The players, of course, are happy to do as Ryan does.
"If they want to talk and back it up, that's fine," Fisher said. "If they're talking and not backing it up, then they shut up. That's Buddy's philosophy."
Lately, of course, the Eagles have been backing it up. So the talk grows louder, tougher and increasingly sinister.
"We don't want to be known as outlaws," Waters said, "but we want to be known as a team that when you come to play us, you know you're going to be in for a war."