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Owens has eyes trained on him

PHILADELPHIA -- Don't use a Sharpie. Don't watch "Desperate Housewives." Don't call yourself by your first and last initial.

Do this, and anything else necessary, to avoid thinking about Terrell Owens, unless you enjoy a question with no answer.

This week, that question is: Will Owens play in the Super Bowl Feb. 6 in Jacksonville, Fla.?

As of yesterday, no one at the Eagles' practice facility knew whether the bombastic and bedazzling receiver would be physically able to compete in 10 days. The issue is Owens's lower right leg. He underwent surgery Dec. 22 to stabilize a fractured fibula and severe high ankle sprain.

However, Eagles trainer Rick Burkholder shared some intriguing details yesterday. He might have shared more had a slightly bewildered Andy Reid, the Eagles' coach, not cut him off, saying, "Hold it. Rick gave you plenty to work with. Let's leave it at that."

Burkholder began by explaining the trip he made with Owens on Tuesday to see Dr. Mark Myerson, the Baltimore-based foot and ankle specialist who a little more than five weeks ago inserted two screws and a plate into Owens's ankle.

"[Myerson] said medically and liability-wise, he couldn't clear him," Burkholder relayed. "We expected it. There's no difference of opinion.

"It's just that [Myerson's] risk-reward is very different than ours. There is no reward for him and all risks. We think there are some risks, great reward."

Thus, Burkholder intimated that the Eagles do not need a doctor's opinion for Owens to play. Since Myerson opted to clear only himself -- of liability -- the decision now resides with Owens, Reid, and Burkholder.

Owens, who began jogging Tuesday, was scheduled to run in front of the coaches at yesterday's practice. Reid, however, was unavailable after practice, and Owens was entirely unavailable. He probably will not speak until Super Bowl media day Tuesday, if then.

Burkholder, meanwhile, said Owens must show the coaches he can run and cut. If he can do that, he must then show them he can practice. And if he practices, he must show he can play in a game.

The Super Bowl, Burkholder said, "isn't even in our vision yet. If he has a setback in his rehab, the whole idea of playing in the Super Bowl is over."

Burkholder admitted Owens had "moving X-rays" taken Tuesday while at Myerson's office and "had a little bit of soreness around where the plate for the screws is."

But Burkholder also said Myerson "admitted he thought Terrell was further along than he anticipated five weeks ago."

Myerson initially thought Owens would have a chance to play 5-7 weeks after surgery, Burkholder said. That works out to sometime between Jan. 25 and Feb. 8.

"In the course of rehab, he changed his opinion to 8-10 weeks," Burkholder said. "Right now we believe weighing the risks and rewards, and Terrell does, too, it's time to progress his rehab."

Burkholder cited historical context as a reason for optimism. He said the team had done a little homework and found that another player who played the same position as Owens, who had the same injury, and who had screws put into his leg, managed to play in six weeks.

He refused to reveal the player's identity, citing privacy regulations. He did say that the player was hurt in training camp and managed to play in his team's season opener.

Reid was brief and vague when asked how Owens's possible absence would affect his game plan against the Patriots.

"He's not there," said Reid, whose team scored 27 points in each of its playoff games sans Owens. "You don't game-plan when he's not practicing."

You do game-plan when he's healthy because he's a force, arguably the best at his position. Owens hauled in a team-best 77 passes in 14 games, totaling 1,200 yards and a team-record 14 touchdowns.

But Reid, who is also the team's general manager, has to weigh Owens's long-term value against the reason he was brought here: to win a Super Bowl. Reid also has to think back to the team's divisional playoff game against the Vikings, when an injured Randy Moss was ineffective.

Teammates tried to downplay Owens's absence. Some did it rather well. Others, such as tight end L.J. Smith, struggled.

"He's one/11th of the team," Smith said. "He's a big part of it."

Smith was, in part, correct. Owens is a fraction, not of the team, but of himself. The greater the numerator, the greater the odds he plays.

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