- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 2, 2005

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — As usual, Terrell Owens found himself the center of attention yesterday.

Flanked four deep by questioners and cameramen on Super Bowl Media Day, the ailing Philadelphia Eagles receiver again promised he will defy his surgeon’s advice and play Sunday against the New England Patriots.

“I will play,” said Owens, who returned to practice Monday after missing six weeks with a broken fibula and severely sprained ankle. “I know my body better than anyone. I respect Dr. [Mark] Myerson and his decision to not medically clear me, but it really doesn’t matter what a doctor says. I’ve got the best doctor of all, and that’s God.”

The availability of Owens, who said he isn’t 100 percent but has only minimal pain and some tightness in his right leg, was the dominant question during the Eagles’ hour-long media session yesterday and a frequent topic during the Patriots’ meeting that followed.

Owens doesn’t consider it a major risk to play Sunday, and at 31 and after nine NFL seasons, he’s not about to sit out his first Super Bowl.

“I told [my teammates] once I got hurt that if they got us to the Super Bowl, I would be there,” Owens said. “Everyone out there is worried about my health. … It’s a good story surrounding the Super Bowl with all the hoopla and such, but I’m playing, and that’s it.”

Except that it’s not his call. It’s Andy Reid’s. The Eagles coach was much less definitive about No.81’s status for Sunday even after yesterday’s 34-minute walkthrough, during which Owens was on the field for just six of the 20 offensive plays. He caught one of the two balls quarterback Donovan McNabb threw his way.

“T.O. looked OK,” Reid said. “He’ll continue to do a little more every day. He’s getting better every day. Tomorrow will be a tough work day, so we’ll see how he feels. Everyone would love to have him, and he deserves to be out there. He’s worked very hard to get here, but we have to make sure he can go full speed. I want him to think he is [playing]. That’s what’s going to drive him to get ready. If he stops thinking that he’s going to play, then he’s not going to.”

If Owens plays, he doesn’t plan to be a sidebar story. His infamous exploits include stomping on the Cowboys’ star at Texas Stadium, taunting opponents with touchdown celebrations that included signing a football with a Sharpie in the end zone and questioning his former quarterback’s sexuality. Then, he drew the wrath of the Federal Communication Commission for catching naked actress Nicollette Sheridan in a “Monday Night Football” promo Nov.15. Naturally, Owens scored three touchdowns that night.

“You can’t play this game cautious and be effective,” Owens said. “I’m never going to be a decoy. I’m a special individual. What I do on the field causes a lot of people to criticize me. A lot of people say I’m controversial, and they may be right, but I am who I am, and I’m not going to change.”

The Eagles don’t want him to.

“He’s T.O. on Sundays and Terrell during the week,” defensive tackle Corey Simon said. “He’s not that guy that everyone portrays him to be in the media. He’s a pretty mild-mannered, calm guy.”

Picturing T.O. as Clark Kent is pretty hard to believe, but the backup who replaced Superman with four touchdowns in four games, receiver Freddie Mitchell, wasn’t pleased to be relegated to the relative shadows on Media Day. Eleven players and Reid had podiums, but Mitchell wasn’t one of them after being taken to task by the coach for last week’s disrespectful comments about the Patriots’ secondary.

“They’re treating me bad,” Mitchell complained about the Eagles’ public relations people, who obviously had orders from Reid.

But that was about the only discouraging word on Media Day.

Thankfully, there was only one “Pick Boy,” a caped clown representing Nickelodeon, whose major query concerned quarterbacks’ bodily functions. New England cornerback Asante Samuel was asked his favorite lunch meat and the sexiest his sister has looked.

Current players Michael Strahan and Simeon Rice moonlighted as sportscasters, former Super Bowl hero William “Refrigerator” Perry asked the nearly-as heavy-set Reid if he was ticklish and the Eagles’ Ike Reese and Hollis Thomas were both interviewers and interviewees.

“You can get out here and have some fun and give everybody what they want,” Philadelphia defensive end Jevon Kearse said.

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