© St. Petersburg Times, published January 7, 2003
Duce Staley would not be in Philadelphia if Warrick Dunn had made a different decision in March.
Staley can thank Dunn on Saturday night when the Eagles host Atlanta.
When Dunn last visited Philadelphia, the Eagles were showing him around their practice facility, trying to convince the running back to sign with them.
But Dunn, who had spent his first five seasons in the league with the Bucs, decided to stay in the south, signing a six-year, $28.5-million deal with the Falcons.
So the Eagles kept Staley, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher who was coming off his worst season. Staley responded by rushing for 1,029 yards and five touchdowns and caught 51 passes for 541 yards.
He didn't let the Eagles' pursuit of Dunn affect his performance.
"I just move on," Staley said. "That's a part of the business, and I was taught as a kid you couldn't get mad at anything you can't control."
The team seems to relish being underdogs. Players say it relieves the tension and bolsters their defiance.
After their 27-7 upset victory against the Packers, the Falcons were pondering their game against the top-seeded Eagles.
The defiance was still there. So was the respect.
"Nobody thinks we can do that," said wide receiver Shawn Jefferson, visualizing another upset victory. "I know they're a (darn) good team. They have homefield advantage throughout. They've been doing something right the whole year.
"If we're going to the Super Bowl or if we're going to do something special, we've got to go through them. Point blank."