Watters Is Among The Battered Birds

Posted: December 06, 1996

INDIANAPOLIS — The Eagles, one of the healthiest teams in the NFL this season, got smacked around by the Colts and lost the services of three of their best players early in the game last night. Only one returned.

Running back Ricky Watters suffered a mild concussion late in the first quarter. He returned to action with nine minutes left in the second quarter.

Cornerback Troy Vincent went out with a strained patella tendon in his right knee in the second quarter, and free safety Brian Dawkins went out five plays later with a strained groin. Neither returned, and both are listed as questionable for the game against the New York Jets on Dec. 14.

Don Griffin replaced Vincent at left cornerback, and James Fuller replaced Dawkins.

``It's a pretty significant strain,'' Eagles trainer James Collins said of Dawkins' injury. ``We're going to have to see [today] where he stands for this week. Right now, it's pretty questionable because of the amount of the area that was strained.''

Collins said that Vincent also had pain along his lateral joint lines, so he will undergo a magnetic-resonance-imaging test today to make sure there is no joint damage.

``The patella tendon, we'll have to treat that all week and see if we can relieve the discomfort,'' Collins said.

Watters suffered the concussion with 5 minutes, 10 seconds left in the first quarter. After catching a short pass from Detmer in the right flat, Watters gained 7 yards before being tackled by defensive back Dedric Mathis.

As he was falling to the ground, Watters was hit in the head by the right knee of Colts linebacker Trev Alberts.

Watters stayed on his knees, clinging to tight end Jimmy Johnson. After staying on the field briefly, Watters was helped to the sideline, his legs wobbling noticeably.

Team doctor Arthur Bartolozzi and Collins, among others, hovered over Watters on the bench. Two minutes later, Watters jumped up and hopped around the sideline.

Watters also suffered a sprained left thumb in the second quarter.

``He's fine'' as far as the concussion is concerned, Collins said. ``He hyperextended his thumb, so that will be sore. But we'll tape it and probably put a splint on it.''

In addition to his superior production over the years, Watters has been one of the NFL's most durable backs. He missed his entire rookie season with a broken foot and a broken hand, but he has not missed a game in the last three seasons. He missed two games in 1992 with a shoulder injury and three in 1993 with a knee injury.

Suffering less serious injuries were linebacker James Willis (ankle sprain) and wide receiver Chris T. Jones (hip bruise).

Blitz Attack. Like the Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals before them, the Colts were successful in blitzing the Eagles to distraction. Although the Colts picked up just one sack, they chased the Eagles' quarterbacks out of the pocket and into mistakes all night.

``We expected some blitzes. We didn't expect that much,'' Eagles tackle Barrett Brooks said. ``They just were going to bring the house, and it was effective. They got a couple of plays where it didn't bounce our way. They played very hungry. They made things happen. They controlled the tempo.''

Bouncing back. Perhaps the worst part of the loss, except that it forced the Eagles even further into a corner regarding the playoffs, was that they have nine days to mull it over.

``You'd like to have a game like this last Sunday and get back Thursday and get the taste our of your mouth,'' quarterback Mark Rypien said. ``We're a wounded football team right now. We're hurt. But the same can be said about the Colts coming into this game. We're shoved up against the wall, but I've seen some pretty good character on this team.''

No balance. Eagles offensive coordinator Jon Gruden drew raves Sunday against the New York Giants for his play calling. Gruden managed to mix the pass and run effectively as the Eagles built a 24-0 lead at halftime.

What happened to that mix last night? The Colts went into the game ranked next-to-last in the AFC against the run, but Gruden had the Eagles throw 13 passes in the first quarter and run just five times.

``I had the intention of trying to take advantage of their new guys they have in the secondary,'' Eagles coach Ray Rhodes said. (Because of injuries, the Colts had several backups in their defensive lineup.) ``Obviously, it didn't work. They kept up with a lot of pressure.''

On the other hand, the Colts threw five passes and ran the ball five times in the first quarter and led, 7-3.

Coach 1.000. The Eagles' all-time winningest coach was at the game last night, hard at work for the Colts.

That, of course, was Fred Bruney, an assistant coach on Lindy Infante's staff, in charge of breaking down defensive film and drawing up future game plans.

Bruney served as the Eagles' head coach for one game, at Minnesota in 1985, and led the team to a 37-35 victory one week after Marion Campbell was fired by Norman Braman.

Bruney's 1-0 record (1.000) gives him the best winning percentage in franchise history.

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