tampabay.com

Patriots expect plenty out of Owens

By RICK STROUD and ROGER MILLS
Published February 5, 2005


JACKSONVILLE - The Patriots expect Terrell Owens to play Sunday. They also expected the Eagles receiver to play like he did before his Dec. 19 ankle injury.

"He's not going to be out there on crutches," the Patriots' Bill Belichick said in the coaches' final news conference Friday.

"Whether we can cover him or not, that remains to be seen. But they're not going to put the guy out there in a wheelchair."

Owens has increased his workload and reportedly caught several long passes in Thursday's practice. But Eagles coach Andy Reid stopped short of saying Owens would start.

"Whether he starts or not is irrelevant, I think, right now," Reid said. "We've got it broken down by different plays we'd like to see in there. If one of those happens to be the first play, and if not, then Freddie ( Mitchell) will be there.

"We'll get (T.O.) there. We'll warm him up and see how he does."

UNDER EAGLES: The Eagles are seven-point underdogs. That is understandable, according to Reid, who says the defending champions deserve their billing.

"I think it's probably where they should be," Reid said. "You're playing the world champions and they deserve to be favorites, I would say. It's important we come out and prove ourselves that we're worthy of playing, and until you do that, it's a position you're going to be in. I don't think our players look at themselves, though, as underdogs, which I think is important."

Belichick said he doesn't buy into the favorite status.

"We don't care about that situation at all," he said. "The team that is best prepared and can execute on Sunday, that is what it comes down to. It doesn't matter what anybody thinks is going to happen before the game."

CALL HIM THE DON: Former Bucs linebacker Don Davis is having quite the run of Super Bowl appearances. The nine-year veteran was a major contributor for the Rams, who lost in the Super Bowl to the Patriots at the end of the 2002 season. He signed with the Patriots in 2003 and is making his third appearance in four seasons.

"I definitely think about that," said Davis, who played for the Bucs from 1999-2000. "Every year I think about how blessed I've been and then at times like this, I do it every 10 minutes. It's humbling to realize the blessings I have had." With depth at linebacker, the Patriots felt comfortable enough with Davis' speed and experience to ask him in training camp to work at safety. With injuries in the secondary, the 6-foot-1, 235-pound Davis started two games at safety.

"It was great for me because it enabled me to develop another dimension of my game," Davis, 32, said. "Obviously, the more you can do in the NFL, the longer you can stay. So, it was great for me to go in a role no one thought I could do. Even teams that I have been with, who know me, didn't think I could do it. But this coaching staff had that confidence in me and put me back there."

BUCS CENTRAL: Davis isn't the only former Buccaneer who will be on the Patriots sideline. Backup quarterback Jim Miller, cornerback Hank Poteat, offensive guard Russ Hochstein and running back Rabih Abdullah spent time at One Buc Place.

"This game is a tremendous fraternity, it's a brotherhood," Abdullah said. "It's great to see other guys you've played with before. When I got here, I was amazed at the number of people I actually knew."

DEPARTED BUCS: Retired 49ers quarterback Steve Young, expected to be selected to the Hall of Fame today, is a former Bucs quarterback who left Tampa unhappy with the program.

Bucs personnel executive Doug Williams said Young's success after leaving the Bucs is another example of the shabby legacy the team had before the change in ownership.

"I don't think the Bucs were in position at that time (to keep such stars)," Williams said. "If you look at this Buccaneer team, this organization now and compare it to when I went to Washington, I don't know whether winning was the most important thing at that particular time in Tampa. "We had opportunities to plug people in certain positions, but every time we got a guy that was a free agent or whatever, we traded him (because) we would have had to pay him more. It never ended up where we kept players that could help us get over that hump."

Like Young, Williams left and won a Super Bowl, with the Redskins.

"If I had stayed there, I probably wouldn't have gone to a Super Bowl," Williams said. "You're dealing with a personnel department that had a guy who had no idea what personnel was all about. It was about saving money. I don't think they ever knew what they had until we were gone."