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NFC: Eagles counting on Westbrook

By wire services
Published January 14, 2005

PHILADELPHIA - From the back of the interview room, in his mock-reporter voice, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb called out to running back Brian Westbrook: "What are you going to do with T.O. out?"

It drew a big laugh, but the question has been on the mind of every Eagles fan, and likely every player, too, since receiver Terrell Owens tore ligaments in his ankle and fractured his leg on Dec. 19.

What is the Eagles' offense going to look like without him?

Will McNabb run more often? Can receivers Freddie Mitchell and Todd Pinkston make up for Owens' absence? Will the Eagles be rusty or rejuvenated after most starters rested during the final two regular-season games and the team had more time off with a first-round bye in the playoffs?

There is much speculation about how Westbrook will be used in the playoffs. Some believe he will spend more time as a receiver, with Dorsey Levens getting extended time at running back. Many would like to see Westbrook returning punts again. Last season, he scored twice on punt returns.

Brad Childress, Philadelphia's offensive coordinator, left open the possibility of something exotic and inspired. He knows that the Vikings are guessing as urgently as Eagles fans are about the new offense.

"Curiosity is a good thing," Childress said.

FALCONS: While other owners rarely descend from their lofty skyboxes, and those who do risk embarrassing themselves, cameras usually catch Arthur Blank visiting the sideline each game. He plans to do the same Saturday night when the Falcons take on the Rams in their first home playoff game since Blank bought the team three years ago.

Blank has heard the common criticism that his involvement is a breach of NFL etiquette, that he might be undermining his coach, Jim Mora, by micromanaging, that league bankrollers don't belong in the trenches.

Mora and the players say they like him being there. He symbolizes the open communication, inclusiveness and passion reflected by their 11-5 success.

"Mr. B and I talk all the time. It's a beautiful thing," said safety Keion Carpenter. "I get so jacked up and I cuss and fuss, and then I realize, I'm talking to the owner! I have to catch myself sometimes. And sometimes he gives it right back."

VIKINGS: Randy Moss didn't practice for the second straight day Thursday because of a sprained right ankle, but the receiver remains probable for Sunday's game.

Running back Moe Williams (sprained right ankle) was upgraded to questionable, and coach Mike Tice said he anticipates the veteran being able to play a limited role against the Eagles. Strong safety Corey Chavous (doubtful, broken left elbow) is the only player Tice is not counting on.

[Last modified January 14, 2005, 00:31:20]


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