The thought of facing Dallas linebacker DeMarcus Ware and the rest of the Cowboys' defense Sunday was not what made Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy sick this week.
McCoy missed two practices with flu-like symptoms but returned to practice on a limited basis Friday and is expected to play in the Eagles' must-win game Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
"He was able to do some things," coach Andy Reid said Friday in quotes provided by the team. "He had the flu and a little chest cold mixed in with it, but he's feeling better. We're just kind of easing him back in because he's still got a little bit of a cough, but he's getting there. He's doing well."
The Eagles would have a tough time beating Dallas without their top running back. McCoy has struggled at times this season but is still regarded among the league's most versatile backs. He rushed for 119 yards on 19 carries in Monday's 28-13 loss at New Orleans and now ranks 10th in the NFL in rushing with 623 yards on 146 carries. His 30 receptions are third among NFL running backs.
McCoy, a fourth-year veteran, could also be called upon to do some blocking against the Cowboys. Ware, who is tied for the NFC with nine sacks, will face an injury-riddled offensive line.
The Eagles announced Friday that right guard Danny Watkins will miss his third straight game with chronic ankle soreness. Dennis Kelly will start again in his spot. In addition, right tackle Todd Herremans will miss the rest of the season after suffering a dislocated cuboid bone in his right foot against the Saints. King Dunlap will move from left tackle to right tackle and Demetress Bell will play left tackle.
McCoy said Friday in quotes provided by the team that he will be ready for the game, despite not having practiced at full speed all week.
"I'm not a rookie," McCoy said. "I know my assignments for the blitzes and pickups, the (pass) protections, the plays called. I think the coaches trust me on that in those types of situations."
A solid running game could also help ease some of the pressure on quarterback Michael Vick.
Vick took a beating against the Saints, getting sacked seven times and absorbing at least a half-dozen more hits. He has suffered 27 sacks this season. Vick also has done a poor job of protecting the football. He has committed 14 turnovers this season.
"It's been tough," Vick said Friday in quotes provided by the team. "Nobody likes to lose, especially at this stage of my career. Even though there are going to be some losses (in a season), there should be more wins than losses. That's what we planned on this year. Our expectations were very high, and obviously we thought we'd be in a better position."
"But as frustrating at it may be, you've got to find some type of joy and some type of fulfillment. Everybody is different, but you've got to find what brings out the best in you. I'm trying to bring out the best in myself and play the best football I can. It's on all of us to get it turned around and we just have to keep pushing. The thing is, we still have a fighting chance. We still control our own destiny, so we all have to be held accountable."
The Eagles (3-5) and Cowboys (3-5) are both in desperation mode. Although they are tied for second place in the NFC East behind the New York Giants (6-3), they need a win Sunday to have a realistic shot at making the playoffs.
The Eagles have lost four straight. The Cowboys have dropped four of their last five games.
"This is a very important game obviously for both teams," Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said Wednesday during a phone interview. "This is the time of year when teams are going to start separating themselves. For us, it's all about getting a win on Sunday."
That places more emphasis on what is already one of the league's top rivalries.
Dallas owns a 59-47 advantage in series that began in 1960 and features a slew of memorable plays and unforgettable moments. There have been bounties placed on players (Cowboys place-kicker Luis Zendejas), snowballs tossed at a coach (Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson), pickle juice guzzled to ward off the heat, jerseys burned in effigy (Terrell Owens' return to Philadelphia with the Cowboys) and everything in between.
This may be one of the few years where the subplots don't matter, however. Both teams will be more concerned with earning a victory.
"There's no question we have a history with them," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Wednesday in a phone interview. "Both teams wanted more wins this season and that has not been the case. We both need a win on Sunday."
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