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Prophet or distraction?


Terrell Owens proclaimed himself healed and boldly predicted he will play in this Sunday's Super Bowl XXXIX at Alltel Stadium. So how will history record Owens? Will he have been a prophet or a distraction?

He has been some of the former and a lot of the latter during his controversial career. Owens has always turned the spotlight toward himself, but it's happened naturally this week. Owens was having the season of his life until suffering an ankle injury that required surgery and forced him to miss the Eagles' final two regular-season games and both playoff wins.

Owens is quarterback Donovan McNabb's most explosive weapon. The Eagles cruised through the playoffs without Owens, but they didn't face the quality of competition they'll encounter this Sunday against the New England Patriots. Logic would suggest the Eagles would welcome his return.

"I feel great. I'm proving people wrong. The sky is the limit for me. There are no limitations," Owens said during Tuesday's media day ceremonies.

Those comments would otherwise be considered welcome news for the Eagles, but there's one small problem: Owens has yet to receive clearance from the Eagles' medical team, and he continues to be limited in his practice regimen.

"I will play on Sunday. I know the type person I am. I have a lot of faith in my ability. I told the guys in the locker room: You guys just get us into the Super Bowl and I'll be there. They've done their job, now it's time to do my job," Owens said.

What if he isn't able to play? Or what if he isn't able to play well? That's the downside of Owens' comments. The concern is that he will take the edge off what the Eagles had accomplished without him, and that his promise of playing on Sunday will have only served to provide his teammates with false hope.

"I was T.O. before I got here. I didn't ask to be controversial but I guess it follows me. Controversy is the plan and map God made for me. Obviously, it was that way in San Francisco and I thought I could start on a clean slate in Philadelphia, (but) it followed me," Owens said.

Owens did not join his replacement at wide receiver, Freddie Mitchell, in calling out the Patriots. Mitchell, of course, made remarks last week critical of the Patriots secondary in general and of safety Rodney Harrison in particular. Owens, instead, praised the Patriots.

"They make their presence known in the secondary," Owens said of Harrison and Eugene Wilson. "When you have two guys who do that at safety, you must be aware of it. You have to take into account those guys will deliver great hits. You know they're back there and you know they're coming after you."

Owens participated in practice on Tuesday, but was on the field for only six of the Eagles' 20 snaps on offense. He caught one pass.

Harrison spoke on Sunday about sending messages with hard hits. He's considered the "dirtiest" player in the league and he embraces that image because he believes it unnerves receivers who tread the middle of the Patriots' secondary.

"I think any time you send a message, sometimes people listen and sometimes they don't. It just depends how hard you send the message," Harrison said. "(Owens) is a big, physical receiver. I think he welcomes the contact, but if we get our shots, we're going to take them."

"Terrell Owens is a playmaker. He makes big plays. He was leading the league in touchdowns before he got hurt and you can expect nothing else. He's been doing it his whole career," Patriots defensive end Willie McGinest said. "We're prepared for him to be out there."

Harrison's and McGinest's comments were obviously subdued, careful not to turn the spotlight of controversy New England's way. Owens, however, has never shied away from controversy and he's reveling in it this week, the biggest week of his pro football life, maybe.

"If you believe in miracles, just wait until Sunday," Owens said.

But what if there isn't a miracle? That's the danger the Eagles are facing.

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