Back on track

The Baltimore Sun

Terrell Owens was running routes and catching passes in his return to practice yesterday, showing only a slight limp at times. The star receiver seems on track to play in the Dallas Cowboys' playoff game against the New York Giants.

Owens, recovering from a sprained left ankle, didn't go against defenders in the short period of practice open to the media.

Although he was taking full strides running routes and making some cuts without any apparent problems, Owens had a slight limp at times when he jogged or walked.

Seen in the perimeter around the locker room during lunch before practice, Owens appeared to be walking fine, though he said little.

"You're not getting anything out of me," Owens said.

Asked if Owens was still a game-time decision, coach Wade Phillips said: "We'll see."

Owens hurt his ankle Dec. 22 at Carolina and sat out the regular-season finale at Washington. The All-Pro receiver took part in the team's light walk-through Monday but didn't practice Wednesday while doing rehabilitation.

Also yesterday, owner Jerry Jones said Phillips' job is safe. Despite going 13-3 in his first season in Dallas, there has been speculation that Phillips has to win a playoff game to ensure his return.

"There's nothing that can happen in the playoffs that could change my thinking about him being the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys," Jones said.

Redskins -- Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz (Mount St. Joseph) became the first person to interview for Washington's coaching vacancy as the team stepped up its search for a successor to Joe Gibbs. Schwartz, a Ravens assistant from 1996 to 1998, met with owner Daniel Snyder in the Washington area and was the only person scheduled to have an interview yesterday, a person familiar with the selection process told the Associated Press. Schwartz also has been mentioned as a candidate for the Ravens' opening. A second candidate, also an assistant from another team, will be interviewed today.

Packers -- Brett Favre is leaning toward returning for another season, according to comments he made to his hometown newspaper. In a story posted on the Web site of the Biloxi (Miss.) Sun Herald yesterday, Favre said he isn't approaching tomorrow's playoff game against Seattle as if it will be his final game in Green Bay. He seemed more optimistic than in years past about returning. "For the first time in three years, I haven't thought this could be my last game," Favre told the newspaper. "I would like to continue longer."

Colts -- Coach Tony Dungy, who has considered leaving football each of the past two years, acknowledged that he would talk with his wife and club officials about the future when the Colts' season ends. Speculation about his potential departure was fueled by a report yesterday in The Tampa Tribune that said his son, Eric, enrolled at Plant High School in Florida. Eric Dungy, who turns 16 tomorrow, was a receiver-defensive back at Park Tudor High School in Indianapolis the past two years but reportedly began attending classes at Plant on Tuesday. Tony Dungy would not confirm the report.

Chargers -- Tight end Antonio Gates (dislocated toe) said the decision whether he plays against the Colts will be made Sunday morning.

Giants -- Center Shaun O'Hara returned to practice and took half the snaps with the offense. O'Hara sprained a knee in the regular-season finale against the Patriots and missed the NFC wild-card game against the Buccaneers on Sunday. He is not sure whether he will play Sunday.

Falcons -- Atlanta lost a candidate in its search for a general manager when the Giants' Chris Mara dropped out. Mara, the Giants' vice president of player evaluation, withdrew from consideration two days after interviewing with Falcons owner Arthur Blank.

Steelers -- Wide receiver Hines Ward underwent surgery Wednesday to repair a partially torn meniscus in his right knee and will need about six weeks of recovery time before beginning offseason workouts.

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