TAMPA, JAN. 3 -- According to the Philadelphia Eagles' roster, Keith Byars is a running back.

In reality, you need about a paragraph to say what position Byars plays.

"I would just say 'specialist,' " he said earlier this year. "And you'd say 'specialize in what?' And I'd say 'specialize in being the player for every formation in the offense.' . . . Whatever formation it is, I'm in it. We go to nickel formations, I go in the slot. We go to three tight ends, I'm the third tight end. We go to two tight ends, I'm the second tight end. We go to four wideouts, I'm way outside."

Byars occasionally even lines up behind quarterback Randall Cunningham, like most running backs. Of course, on some of those occasions, he will get a handoff and start running wide, then pull up and throw the ball. But that's another part of Byars's role.

"Maybe someday someone will come up with a name for it," he said, "but in our offense, we don't even have a name for it. We just say, 'That's Keith Byars.' "

"It's a unique role," he said today, before the Eagles went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' training facility for their final full-scale practice for Saturday's NFC wild-card game against the Washington Redskins. "You can't compare me with anybody in the NFL because I'm the only one doing it."

Here's what Byars did this season: 81 receptions (third best in the NFL) for 819 yards and three touchdowns; 37 carries for 141 yards; and four-of-four passing for 53 yards and four touchdowns. And lest anyone forget, there were those multiple-replay, killer blocks on Giants linebacker Pepper Johnson and Redskins linebacker Wilber Marshall during scrambles by Cunningham.

Byars does so many things well from so many positions on the field that he somehow managed not to get voted to the Pro Bowl, a slight he explains:

"Just like a lot of the fans and the media in Philadelphia had to be educated on what I was being asked to do in our offense, I think the same thing is true with other people around the league. They didn't know exactly what position to vote me for. I think if they would have had one clear-cut position to vote me to, I would have made it."

There is no argument from Buddy Ryan, who made Byars the club's first-round pick in 1986 -- his first draft as Eagles coach.

Byars "can do everything, and he's done everything since he's been here," Ryan said. "He's just a great talent."

His 81 receptions tied the club record, set by tight end Keith Jackson in 1988, and gave him 221 since 1988 -- fifth best in the NFL behind wide receivers Jerry Rice, Andre Reed, Henry Ellard and Art Monk.

Another of his major contributions to the Eagles this season came off the field. A bowling aficionado, he started a 12-team, 36-man bowling league for Eagles players that is believed to have helped bring the team closer together.

He did so many things for the team this year, it's surprising he didn't sing 'The Star Spangled Banner" before a game. That task fell to his wife, Margaret, a gospel singer who performed before the Colts game Sept. 30 at Veterans Stadium.

"It was a great year for me," he said. "I was pleased with it as well as the team's success. But I never want to get to the point where I say, 'Well, that's all I can do.' "

What makes Byars's success this year even more remarkable is that it came after he and the Eagles adjusted to the system of new offensive coordinator Rich Kotite. For Byars, the new system meant big changes. For example, in his first four seasons, he averaged nearly 145 carries.

"There was a transition period I had to go through," Byars said. "But I always try to pride myself on being a team ballplayer. Sure I want to carry the ball 200, 250 times a season like a whole lot of other running backs, but the team comes first here."

Eagles Notes: Ryan was in postseason form again. Before today's workout he said Washington reporters insulted his intelligence during a conference call that ended with Ryan hanging up on them. He made a backhanded swipe at the Redskins' quarterbacks and he intimated that Washington running back Earnest Byner might fumble on Saturday.

Asked about Byner, he said: "He's an excellent back. He can catch the ball coming out of the backfield as well. But he does lay it on the ground for you, and we expect to pick those up when he lays them down."

Told that Byner had only lost one fumble this season, Ryan replied: "Is that right? Well, maybe he'll lose three this week."

In 1985, as the Bears' defensive coordinator, Ryan predicted running back Eric Dickerson -- then of the Rams -- would fumble three times in the NFC championship game. Dickerson coughed it up twice.

But Ryan saved his best for the Washington reporters. On Wednesday, when they bored in on the Eagles' 0-2 playoff record under Ryan, he slammed down the phone.

Today he explained: "We had about 15 minutes on the phone. That ought to be enough. I have other things I have to do besides talk with the writers. How long did {Joe} Gibbs spend with you guys?

"You see where they're going with their questions. They insult your intelligence. I don't have time to mess with their games." . . .

With the help of a brace that arrived this morning, starting center David Alexander worked out and pronounced himself ready to play despite a sprained knee.