PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles' thin receiving
corps has lost another key member, and whether its star makes it
back for the Super Bowl is still uncertain.
Tight end Chad Lewis, who caught two touchdown passes in
Philadelphia's 27-10 victory over Atlanta in the NFC championship
game Sunday, will miss the Super Bowl with a foot injury.
Meanwhile, All-Pro wide receiver Terrell Owens' status is
uncertain. Owens has been sidelined with an ankle injury since Dec.
19. Eagles coach Andy Reid said Monday that Owens has made "great
progress," and will try to run on the ankle this week.
Lewis, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, will have surgery on
Wednesday. He was hurt on his second TD grab, a 2-yard catch that
sealed the win.
"He was crushed," Reid said. "You sure don't like to see that
happen to a veteran player that waited his whole career to get to
this thing. He'll survive through it. He'll be down there
supporting us, doing everything he can from the sideline."
Lewis spent half the 1999 season with St. Louis, before getting
cut and signing with Philadelphia. The Rams won the Super Bowl that
Lewis' injury, called a Lis Franc sprain, is more common in
automobile accidents and equestrian sports.
Eagles All-Pro safety Brian Dawkins missed nine games last
season with a similar injury that wasn't as severe and didn't
require surgery. In 2000, Eagles running back Duce Staley had
surgery and missed the final 13 games, including playoffs, with an
injury to the same joint.
Second-year pro L.J. Smith will take Lewis' spot in the starting
lineup against New England in the Super Bowl on Feb. 6. Mike Bartrum, also the long snapper, is the only other tight end on the
roster. Reid said the team will try to add another tight end this
week. Lewis backed up Bartrum as the long snapper.
Lewis, an unrestricted free agent after the season, had 29
catches for 267 yards and three TDs this year. His role had been
reduced with the emergence of Smith, a second-round draft pick from
Rutgers in 2003.
Lewis originally signed as a rookie free agent with the Eagles
in 1997. He was cut two games into the 1998 season and signed with
the Rams, only to return to Philadelphia 1½ years later.
Lewis emerged as quarterback Donovan McNabb's favorite target in
2000, catching 69 passes for 735 yards and three TDs to earn the
first of his three consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl.
Over the next three seasons, Lewis caught 41, 42 and 23 passes.
"It's unfortunate that it happened," McNabb said. "We're
going to go out and try to win it for Chad."
A return by Owens would easily offset the injury to Lewis. Owens
caught 77 passes for 1,200 yards and 14 TDs in his first year with
Owens' spectacular season came to a halt when he tore two ankle
ligaments and broke his right leg in a game against Dallas on Dec.
19. A surgeon inserted two screws in Owens' ankle and a plate on
the outside of the ankle three days later.
Owens was told after surgery that he had only an outside chance
of returning for the Super Bowl, but has rehabbed vigorously and
has told teammates he's going to play.
McNabb downplayed the notion that Owens might come back only to
be used as a decoy against the Patriots.
"For him, that's disrespectful to say you're going to be used
to run dummy routes," McNabb said. "We brought T.O. here for a
reason. If T.O. is out there, he's going to catch some balls."
Owens was back on the sideline leading cheers against the
Falcons. But making cuts and taking hits won't be as easy as waving
a towel and flapping his arms.
"Somewhere in the next few days here, he's going to try and run
on that thing, jog on it, see what he can do and progress from
there," Reid said. "He's coming in every day for treatment. He's
been working in the pool, running in the pool, but it's a matter of
him getting out and trying it on land here without the water."