TAMPA, FLA — TAMPA, Fla. -- Some reward.
The Philadelphia Eagles have been battling all season for a chance to continue working into the new year, and yesterday coach Buddy Ryan gave them their wish.
For more than four hours under a broiling afternoon sun, the team ran full-contact drills, sprints, practice plays, formations, pass routes and rushing stunts, and finished it all off with "gassers," 50-yard wind sprints. The scene at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' practice facility, with soaked and weary football players gasping for water and air, was more reminiscent of the dog days of training camp in West Chester, Pa., than the glitter of the NFL playoffs.
"It always helps to boil 'em out a little bit, after New Year's particularly," said Ryan, who seemed especially cheerful as he looked forward to Saturday's playoff game against the Washington Redskins. "We had a great workout. Course, if we had stayed home, the field would have been frozen, even though it's nice there. So this is good for us here."
Shed of the winter gear players have worn in practice for two months, the Eagles showed the toll of a 16-game season.
Clyde Simmons wore a stretch brace on his left knee; Andre Waters had knee braces and was nursing a sore back; Terry Hoage's left wrist was double taped; Mike Pitts and Ben Tamburello both sported shiny braces on their knees; Ron Solt's left ankle was housed in a plastic brace; and Mike Schad wore a big brace on his right knee.
Center David Alexander, who injured his left knee Saturday against Phoenix, snapped the ball in early non-contact drills, but sat out the rest of the afternoon with a giant bag of ice bandaged around the joint.
"Dave is doing great," said trainer Otho Davis. "We've controlled the swelling. He's making progress. I think we've got maybe an outside chance, but right today, he's doubtful. But he should come along."
Defensive tackle Jerome Brown, who has a shoulder injury, did not practice. He spent the afternoon pulling on a long gray elastic band, and lending his usual verbal support to his sweating teammates.
"You guys ain't workin' hard enough!" he shouted.
"Jerome's shoulder is very, very tender," said Davis. "He's getting a little bit of motion back in it; his range of motion has improved."
Despite the intensity of Ryan's workout, there were few complaints. After losing in the first round two years in a row, the Eagles seem driven to get past that barrier.