The Philadelphia Eagles' joy ride through the NFC turned somber and threatening yesterday, when the team learned Pro Bowl receiver Terrell Owens likely will miss at least the next five weeks with a severe ankle sprain.
Owens was injured Sunday when he was dragged down from behind by Dallas Cowboys safety Roy Williams and twisted his right ankle. The trauma was great enough that he also suffered a fracture of his fibula just below his knee.
The fracture will heal itself, but the damage in his ankle will require surgery. The operation will be performed at Baltimore's Mercy Medical Center tomorrow by Dr. Mark S. Myerson, the director of The Institute of Foot and Ankle Reconstruction at the hospital.
Owens briefly belonged to the Ravens last offseason in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers, but he successfully overturned that deal and wound up with the Eagles, whom he preferred.
Now the Eagles apparently will have to reach the Super Bowl without Owens. In a best-case scenario, according to Eagles head trainer Rick Burkholder, Owens might be able to return in time for the Super Bowl on Feb. 6 - if the Eagles make it that far.
Eagles coach Andy Reid, a master at overcoming injuries if not winning championship games, is in familiar territory without his meal ticket receiver. A year ago, the Eagles lost their best playmaker, running back Brian Westbrook, to a freak arm injury right before the playoffs.
The team ultimately was upset in the NFC championship game by the Carolina Panthers. It was the Eagles' third straight championship game loss and motivated them to pursue Owens in the offseason.
Reid said yesterday in a news conference he is confident the team will handle the loss.
"I have enough leadership on this football team that I'm not worried about that," Reid said. "T.O. is not going to disappear; he's going to be involved. ... We'll make do without him, obviously, and the guys will step up and play. That part I'm not that concerned with."
Owens pulled down 77 catches for 1,200 yards and a team-record 14 touchdowns this season. He also expressed optimism the team will be fine.
"There is no reason for anybody to get down," Owens said in a conference call with reporters after visiting Myerson in Baltimore. "[There's] no reason for the city of Philadelphia to get down because I am not there. Obviously, my presence will be missed, but we have the guys that can get it done and I truly believe that."
Reid said that either Freddie Mitchell or Greg Lewis will join Todd Pinkston in the starting lineup, and that Billy McMullen will be activated for Monday night's game at St. Louis. At 13-1, the Eagles have clinched home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs for the third straight season.
Burkholder said Myerson will insert a screw through both the fibula and tibia in Owens' ankle to stabilize the joint.
Myerson was involved in successful surgery on NBA star Grant Hill's foot and helped him return to the court this season.