Jacksonville, Fla. - Clearly, the talk about town is Terrell Owens. Call it the storm before the storm. As each day passes and Super Bowl XXXIX draws nearer, the Owens saga continues to take on a life of its own.
The million-dollar question still awaiting an answer is if the Eagles' star wide receiver will recover enough to play - and play effectively - in Sunday's game against the New England Patriots. Because of Owens' relevance to the Eagles, it's also the question no one wants to ask, but the answer to which every pundit scribbles feverishly into his or her notepad when information on the topic is breached.
During Philadelphia head coach Andy Reid's press conference Monday, it took until the third question before a reporter took one for the team. "I know you're going to love this question, but ..." uttered the reporter.
And so it begins.
... "Was T.O. able to do some things in practice today?"
Ready. Set. Scribble.
"Well he was," Reid replied. "We limited what he did, but he did it well and he did it with the team. He moved around pretty good. We'll see how he continues. We'll see how he feels tomorrow morning, how he continues throughout the week."
By all accounts, Owens ability to practice each day brings him one step closer to playing in the Super Bowl. All practices during the week are closed to most of the press - with the exception of one pool reporter assigned to each team - but Reid said Owens was able to participate, albeit on a limited basis.
"We did our normal 10-10-10," said Reid. "T.O. just worked in sparingly throughout each 10-10-10 period. There are 30 plays, and he had probably a little bit less than one-third of those."
So, coach, can you say that Owens will indeed play on Sunday?
"No I can't," he said. "I'll have to see how he does here the next few days."
The Eagles practiced Monday morning after taking the previous two days off, leaving the remaining practices during the week to determine Owens' status. He is scheduled to be available to the press during Tuesday's media day at Alltel Stadium.
For now, much of this story is second-hand knowledge. Tight end L.J. Smith offered an assessment of Owens' practice.
"He did some catching, he did some running, he didn't do too much," Smith said. "He took it easy. He wasn't trying to go out there and go game speed or anything like that."
Philadelphia safety Michael Lewis was more upbeat in his review: "I won't say anything outside of he looks great. He looks great. He looks great!"
Owens is attempting to return from a severely sprained right ankle and fractured fibula he suffered against the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 19 - an injury that required surgery two days later. A return by Owens would be roughly six weeks following the date of the surgery, one that was reported to require eight to 10 weeks of recovery time.
Dr. Mark Myerson, the surgeon who operated on Owens, said last week that while the recovery was ahead of schedule, he would not clear Owens to play. Myerson inserted two screws into Owens' ankle and a plate on the outside of the ankle. The Eagles are putting the decision into the hands of Reid, team trainers and Owens.
Reid doesn't believe a return by Owens would put the 9-year veteran at any greater risk of injury.
"That won't happen to the leg from the surgery he's had," Reid said. "So we've checked into that. Could the same injury occur? Yes, that could occur. But he won't damage it any further that what he already has."
Until Owens is available on Tuesday, the rest of his Eagle teammates have been left to answer the myriad questions regarding his return. Veteran safety Brian Dawkins brought some levity to the situation this week.
"No, bring [the questions] on man," he said. "You know what? Just do me a favor and mix them up. Don't ask them the same way. But bring them on, because he's my teammate. Just because he was hurt, he was always a part of this team. We're used to that. That's how it's been since he's been here."
Certainly, the Eagles have been inundated with questions regarding every small step of the saga surrounding Owens, who recorded 77 receptions for 1,200 yards and franchise records in receiving touchdowns (14) and 100-yard receiving games (7) in his first season in Philadelphia. The Eagles are sticking to their team-first mantra, but it wouldn't be a surprise if it is a topic that's wearing thin.
"We understand that this is a team," defensive tackle Corey Simon said. "No one guy on this team is bigger than anybody else. We've won as a team all season long. That's the way we've done it since I've been here. I think you kind of down everybody else when everybody talks about T.O. [He] is a great player, no question about it, but you throw it up in our face like without him, we're chopped meat. That's not the case. This team has done well over the years without having Terrell. But we'd love to have him out there, no question about it, he's a big part of what we do, but he's not what we do. He's another part of this team. He understands that, we understand that, and we're not going to allow you guys to make a bigger deal out of it than what it is."
It's likely a definitive word on Owens won't be reached until soon after Sunday's kickoff. Until then, it's anyone's bet. How much would you wager on the hottest story around?
"I would not bet against it," said Dawkins.