When rumors started swirling in March of 2004 that Terrell Owens could possibly become an Eagle Philadelphians were giddy. The day some professor from Penn ruled in favor of the Eagles over the Ravens was like Christmas morning for old championship-hungry men. T.O. was the final piece to the puzzle that James Thrash and his fellow average receivers were not. Sure he had issues, but Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb could change all that. Right.
2004 was set to be the dream season for Eagles fans with T.O. saving them from decades of defeat. Anthony Gargano wrote an entire book about Eagles fans' Sunday Pilgrimage last year. The Eagles were a machine. Nothing could stop them. There were good memories: thousands of Eagles faithful swarming Lehigh just to see T.O. smiling at training camp, Owens going deep on his first play ever in Eagles green in the preseason, T.O. owning Ray Lewis, skating in the endzone, T.O. and Donovan chasing each other on the sidelines like goofballs, and Owens standing on the star in Dallas. The Eagles were on their way to their first trip to the Superbowl in decades. Philadelphians had a love affair with Terrell; he was going to bring us exactly what we wanted and make others look foolish along the way. Then Roy Williams crushed T.O.'s ankle and our hopes and dreams.
What happened after that was miraculous, at least according to Owens. Owens was a physical specimen even among some of the worlds greatest athletes. Could he really rehab in time to play if the Birds made it to the big game? The Eagles won the greatest game I've ever attended against the Atlanta Falcons and the birds were on their way to Jacksonville. They got over the NFC Championship game hump without T.O. but they weren't going to get past Bill Belichick and the only dynasty in recent sports history. Not unless Owens could play.
He said all along that he would be ready to play. It couldn't have been scripted better. Terrell had those who bleed green in the palm of his hand. Coming back to play with a half broken ankle would give him the keys to the City of Brotherly Love; he could have been in the company of sports all time greats: Jordan, Montana, Owens.
In Jacksonville Owens performed incredibly, valiantly. The Eagles came close to the dream, but were a winded quarterback away from a parade down Broad Street. That wasn't how it was supposed to end.
Then it all came crashing down. Enter Drew Rosenhaus. ESPN interview after ESPN interview. Owens attacking his former best pal Donovan. Dirt, lies, backstabbing. Terrell Owens personality killed the hopes of millions. In the end, T.O. had to be T.O. It was as simple as that. No matter how hard Andy Reid thought he could get Owens to conform to his ideals, T.O. had to be T.O.
A T.O. divided against himself cannot stand. At least we'll always have Dallas.
CLEARWATER, Fla. — The dew on the infield grass had barely dried when Andrew Knapp was marched out to the firing squad at Phillies camp early Sunday morning.
He took his position at first base and looked across the diamond where Phillies instructors Doug Mansolino, Chris Truby and Larry Bowa were lined up at third base, shortstop and second base, respectively. Armed with fungo bats and a dozens baseballs each, the trio of sharpshooters proceeded to smash bullet one- and two-hoppers at Knapp, who was tasked with pulling them out of the dirt to complete the putout.
“Good job,” shouted Bowa, a tough grader when it comes to infield work, as Knapp finished up the hellacious early-morning drill.
Knapp is a catcher by trade, but he will continue these intense individual sessions at first base throughout the spring — in addition to his regular defensive work behind the plate.
A 25-year-old switch-hitter, Knapp was the Phillies’ second-round selection in the 2013 draft. He’s getting a lot attention in this camp because he has a shot to make the club as a reserve player. The Phils are in need of a backup catcher and a backup first baseman and Knapp, in big-league camp for the second time, is trying to show he can handle both assignments in one package.
“Last year it was more of a happy-to-be-here thing,” he said. “I was just trying to pick as many brains as I could and take in as much knowledge as I could.
“But this year it’s more of a let’s-go-win-a-job kind of deal.”
General manager Matt Klentak and manager Pete Mackanin first floated the idea of carrying Knapp as a two-position reserve at the winter meetings.
Of course, it came with a lot of qualifiers. Knapp is still considered a developing player and team decision-makers would have to consider what impact a reserve role would have on his development. Also, the prototypical backup catcher in the majors is a plus defender who has experience handling a big-league pitching staff. Knapp has never played in the majors and his defense is considered a work in progress. Later in the winter, the Phillies signed two big-league veteran catchers (Bryan Holaday and Ryan Hanigan) to minor-league deals and they are very much in the mix for the job.
“I kind of understand there’s a definite value in having a veteran guy as a backup, but I think I can do the job on the field,” Knapp said.
A potential separator for Knapp could be his bat and his versatility if he can continue to develop it. He is not a novice at first base. He played there as a sophomore at the University of California. Knapp also has this going for him: He’s on the 40-man roster and with so many young prospects on it and the probable need to add an outfielder like Chris Coughlan later in camp, that could work in Knapp’s favor.
Another factor that could held Knapp’s chances: The Phillies’ development blueprint calls for Rhys Hoskins and Jorge Alfaro to get the bulk of the playing time at first base and catcher, respectively, at Triple A.
“You’d like to see him get 500 at-bats, but it’s not a perfect world,” Bowa said. “Our Triple A team is loaded. He might find himself in the same role at Triple A. if that’s the case, it might be best if he came here if he swings the bat like he can and he can provide versatility.
“A guy like him can give you some options and flexibility. When you face the Mets and they have three stud right-handers throwing 95, it might be nice to have a guy like that to give (first baseman) Tommy Joseph a blow.”
Knapp had a brilliant season with the bat at Double A in 2015. He hit .360 with 11 homers, 56 RBIs and a 1.050 OPS in 55 games, earning him the franchise’s Paul Owens Award as minor-league player of the year.
Knapp tapered off at Triple A last season. He hit .266 with eight homers, 46 RBIs and a .719 OPS over a full season. Knapp’s day last summer typically started with defensive work at 1:30 in the afternoon.
“I would get my hitting in, but I don’t think there was as much of a focus on it as there was the year before,” he said. “I do think last year I took a real step forward defensively, especially in the second half of the year. I kind of had a tough first half, but the second half I really honed in on the defensive part, blocking and throwing mostly, just kind of keeping everything in front and shutting down the running game.”
A lot of eyes will be on Knapp when the exhibition games start next week.
“We need to find out if he’s capable of doing it,” Mackanin said. “Catching is a defensive-oriented position. We need good defense. We need good game calling, a catcher who can handle pitchers, and that’s what we’re going to be looking at from a guy like Knapp as well as the other guys. We’re going to take a good long look at that.
“He’s definitely in the mix. I want to play him a lot to see him. We all want to see what he can do offensively and defensively. From what I’ve been told he’s shown a lot of improvement and we’re going to look for that. We’re looking for the 25 best men. There’s a good chance he might be one of them.”
Knapp is determined to show that he is.
“It’s open for someone to go take it and I want to be that guy,” he said.
NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Darnell Foreman scored 15 points with four assists, Matt Howard added 14 points, including three 3-pointers, and Penn used a big second-half run to beat Yale 71-55 on Sunday for its fourth straight win.
AJ Brodeur had 12 points with nine rebounds, Ryan Betley also scored 12, and Devon Goodman had 11 for the Quakers (11-12, 4-6 Ivy League), who won their fourth straight game and moved into a fourth-place tie with Columbia in the conference standings. The top four teams will play in the inaugural Ivy League Tournament, March 11-12, at The Palestra.
Goodman's layup off a steal capped a 17-3 run as Penn extended a 31-30 halftime lead to 48-33 at 14:39 in the second half. Howard hit two 3s in the run and Foreman added a third. Goodman hit a 3, Foreman followed with a layup and the Quakers led by 20, 62-42, with 6:17 left and held on.
Penn shot 50.9 percent from the field to Yale's 32.8 percent and made 9 of 23 from behind the arc to the Bulldogs' 6 of 28.
Miye Oni scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds for Yale (14-9, 6-4), which entered the game in third place behind Harvard and Princeton.