- The Washington Times - Friday, June 10, 2005

Quarterback Donovan McNabb isn’t going to let disgruntled receiver Terrell Owens’ need to stir things up ruin their long-standing friendship or Philadelphia’s chances of defending its NFC title. Owens, who forced San Francisco to trade him to the Eagles last year so he could play with McNabb, has questioned his buddy’s guts in the Super Bowl loss to New England.

“Things are great,” McNabb said of his relationship with Owens, who has stayed away from Philadelphia this spring in hopes of renegotiating the seven-year, $49million deal he signed just last year. “We have talked. I expect to get some work with him in Arizona [their usual offseason spot] or wherever we may decide to go. Whatever may have transpired all throughout the offseason, when you step out on that field you have one job, and that is to make plays.”

But will Owens, 31, be on the field when training camp opens Aug.1? The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, pegged the odds as 50-50.

The Eagles reached three straight NFC Championship games before Owens’ arrival and won their two conference playoff games last season while he was recovering from a broken leg, but “I’ll be the first to tell you they can’t win without him,” said former co-captain Ike Reese, who has moved on to NFC runner-up Atlanta.

Sherman OK just coaching — Mike Sherman has guided Green Bay to the playoffs the past four years, but the Packers’ failure to reach even one NFC Championship game led club president Bob Harlan to take the coach’s general manager duties away after last year’s stunning first-round home loss to NFC North rival Minnesota.

The downcast Sherman reportedly barely left his Lambeau Field office for two weeks, but as he prepares for the final year of his contract, the coach is portraying the move as a positive.

“When I was general manager, I was trying to evaluate our team and our talent level,” Sherman said. “You have to sit back a little bit. Now I can get caught up in the personality of the player, the play you’re going to run and how you’re going to teach the play. [When] you’ve worked so hard to get here, you become so consumed in staying here. You don’t enjoy the ride. I made up my mind this year that I was really going to enjoy my job and go from there.”

Sherman also convinced Brett Favre to work with a personal trainer even as he gave the 35-year-old Hall of Fame lock permission to spend the entire offseason back home in Mississippi.

“We talked to Brett about the fact he doesn’t take off and run as much as he used to,” quarterbacks coach Darrell Bevell said. “I told him, ‘I don’t think it’s because you can’t. It’s because you’re out of shape. You get tired.’ Brett agreed and said he’s going to come in in better shape. It could add a couple more years to his career.”

Where are the LBs? — If the key positions in the 3-4 defense are the outside linebackers, then Cleveland coach Romeo Crennel is in for a rough debut. The Browns’ starters are Matt Stewart, who didn’t make much of an impression in four years in Atlanta, and still-raw 2003 second-rounder Chaun Thompson. Crennel also is trying to convert career defensive lineman Kenard Lang, 30, to the position.

No wonder former Baltimore cornerback Gary Baxter is pushing for Cleveland to sign ex-teammate Peter Boulware, who missed last season with knee and toe injuries and was cut this spring by the Ravens. The lowly Browns could use a 30-year-old player with 67½ sacks, but Crennel — the defensive coordinator for New England teams that won three of the last four Super Bowls — isn’t impressed by glittery resumes.

“[The 2004 Patriots] didn’t have a lot of big-name guys, but they were making plays,” Crennel said. “A lot of guys might not look good on paper, but if you put your commitment and hard work together and go out and do what you’re supposed to do, those names start appearing pretty big on paper.”

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