Tag Archives: Chris Murray

The Greatest: Muhammad Ali Transcended Boxing

10 Jun

Muhammad Ali:1942-2016

ImustbetheGreatest

Muhammad Ali Shook up the world with his stunning upset of Sonny Liston in 1964. He held the heavyweight title three times.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Boxing fans around the world are mourning the death of three-time heavyweight champion of the world Muhammad Ali.

Even in the city of Brotherly Love, the hometown of Joe Frazier, his fiercest rival, people are paying tribute to a fighter who transcended sports.

“Muhammad Ali was an exceptional and extraordinary individual,” said Rudy Battle, chairman of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission. “He was a superlative victor and exemplified the true meaning of the “People’s Champion”. He always took time to recognize his fans.”

Ali was a force to be reckoned with both inside and outside the ring.  As a boxer, Ali had a stinging left jab along with the hand speed and lateral movement with his feet of a welterweight and a middleweight. Some boxing experts described him as a Sugar Ray Robinson at the heavyweight level.

Charlie “Mickey” Thomas was one of Ali’s sparring partners and had been friends with the champ since the two of them were teammates on the 1960 U.S. Olympic Boxing Team. Thomas gave Ali credit  for revitalizing a sport ravaged by it’s control by organized crime.

“When (Ali) was boxing, boxing sucked,” Thomas said. “It was a terrible time, It was run by the mob … and Ali put the sport back in boxing. Look at what he did for the sport.”

“None of the heavyweights fighting now have Ali’s quickness,” said former world middleweight and light middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins. “He was like the Fred Astaire of boxing.”

Outside the ring, Ali became a polarizing figure with his membership in the Nation of Islam and by refusing induction into the United States Army based on his religious beliefs and the idea that African-Americans were mistreated at home.

“I can talk all day about what Ali did inside the ring,” said former world middleweight and light middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins, “but what he did outside the ring was even more profound. Thirty and 40 years from now we’re still going to be talking about Muhammad Ali.”

Hopkins said it took tremendous courage for Ali to stand up for his principles at a time when African-Americans were getting murdered for participating in Civil Rights demonstrations across the country. Just like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were eventually assassinated, Ali faced the real danger of someone shooting him down.

“He sacrificed a lot because there was bullet out there with his name on it,” Hopkins said.

Thomas, who is white and served in the U.S. Army Special Forces, said he agreed with Ali refusing induction into the military because of his religious beliefs and felt he was being true to himself.

“Muhammad Ali was the only truly conscientious objector I knew,” Thomas said. “He believed in what he was doing. I don’t find a lot of Baptists or Catholics who do that.”

When it comes to the legacy of Black athletes who speak out on controversial issues like LeBron James wearing a hoodie as a protest against the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, Hopkins said the media shuts down Black athletes who speak out on controversial issues.

“You can get the media to assassinate them now and kill them that way,” Hopkins said.

In addition to standing up for his rights with respect to his religion and for African-Americans, Ali also stood up against the exploitation of fighters by unscrupulous managers and promoters, Battle said. The Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, which was signed into law in 2000, is designed to protect fighters from unfair business practices by promoters.

“He fought for the equality of boxers and established the Muhammad Ali Law,’ which prevents an individual from both promoting and managing a boxer simultaneously, thereby, eliminating total control of a boxer,” Battle said.

Thomas said Ali had a big heart and his best memories of him were of his willingness to give of himself, especially when the media wasn’t present.

“It was kindness to people without the knowledge of the media. He did a lot for people and he gave a lot of money away and he helped many, many people,” Thomas said.

As someone who grew up in North Philly, Ali had a profound influence on young boxers who tried to emulate the way he fought, his trash talking and his self-confidence.  Ali was as much a hero to young people in Philadelphia as Frazier, Hopkins said.

“Part of my demeanor and attitude in the ring came from wanting to be like Muhammad Ali,” Hopkins said. “You had a lot of young North Philly talking trash against each other, doing the Ali Shuffle. He was our hero.”

 

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Game 81: Phillies Drowning Themselves at the Halfway Point of the Season

29 Jun

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

Phillies Manager Ryne Sandberg feels his team has to improve in every aspect the game.

Phillies Manager Ryne Sandberg feels his team has to improve in every aspect the game.

PHILADELPHIA—At about this time last week when the Phillies went 5-2 on their last road trip, including a three-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.

All of sudden there was some optimism for a hot minute in the City of Brotherly Love, especially since the Phillies are within striking distance of the leaders in the National League East even looking up from last place.

Unfortunately for the Phillies, this current homestand brought us back to a stark reality that they are still going nowhere fast. It reminds me of the two Japanese groundskeepers in the movie, “Major League,” who kept saying their team was “still sh—ty.”

Since winning five straight last week, the Phillies have lost seven of their last nine games including today’s double-header sweep at the hands of the Atlanta Brave at the Citizen’s Bank Park Saturday afternoon and evening.

The Phillies lost the first game 10-3 and the second game 5-1 to sink themselves further down in the National League East race. They haven’t been able to score more than three runs in the first three games of this series. They were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position in the second game of the double-header.

“It is disappointing we came with momentum, a winning streak,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “We could have won another game against the Marlins, but these last three games. … It was a tough for sure. It was a lot of things a lack of offense, a big inning there on the pitching side of things and not so good play on defense.”

The Phillies are nine games below .500 at the true halfway point of the season-game No. 81. It’s the same old problems for the Phillies—lack of hitting, poor defense and pitching, though that aspect of their game has improved significantly. Uniting the three kingdoms of offense, pitching and defense on a consistent basis has been a monumental struggle for the Phillies (36-45).

“We have to do things differently,” Sandberg said. “We definitely have to have more opportunities to score runs and then we have to actually score runs. We have to be more consistent in putting the pitching and the defense together.”

In the Phillies last nine games, they are hitting just .139 with runners in scoring position. Sandberg said he still believes his team is good enough to contend, but they have to play fundamental baseball, something they don’t do on a regular basis.

“We can definitely sharpen up on just playing clean baseball and execute in situational things,” Sandberg said. “The starting pitching has to be consistent, but we have to play good defense behind that pitching.”

In the first game of the twin-bill, first baseman Ryan Howard committed two errors that led to a pair of unearned runs that got the Braves back into the game after the Phillies had taken a 2-0 lead. The bullpen gave up five runs in the eighth.

Centerfielder Ben Revere said despite the Phillies current run of misfortune, the team is still capable of putting together a solid run to get back in the race. At the rate they are losing and the way they are playing, it just doesn’t seem to be possible that the Phillies can turn it around.

“We can go on a roll at any time, win a couple series and sweep a couple of good teams and we’re right back in it,” Revere said. “We have to keep battling. We’re at the halfway point, but it’s a long season and we have the team to do that.”

They better to do it quick because the season is not far from being on life support, if it’s not there already.

 

NBA Commissioner Silver Needs to Take Action on Sterling

27 Apr

Having a Racist Owner is Bad for the NBA’s Brand

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and The Philadelphia Sunday Sun

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he is investigating alleged racist remarks by Los Angeles  Lakers owner Donald Sterling.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he is investigating alleged racist remarks by Los Angeles Lakers owner Donald Sterling.

PHILADELPHIA—You’d like to think that the sports world would be the one place where the problems of the world could be put on hold in favor of living and dying with the fortunes of our favorite team.

But the stark reality is that sports reflect the good, the bad and the ugly of our society. This past Saturday we definitely saw the bad and the ugly when Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s racism infused conversation with his bi-racial girlfriend became the outrage of the social media world.

This incident is the latest version of Sterling’s series of Racist Mixtapes released during his tenure as the owner of the Clippers. From being the defendant in a landmark Fair Housing lawsuit brought by Black and Latino tenants of his housing properties, to his treatment of NBA legend Elgin Baylor, that Sterling’s racism went unchecked by the National Basketball League has me scratching my head a little.

Especially since this is the same NBA that enforced a dress code on its players because former commissioner David Stern felt that Black athletes wearing cornrows, gold chains, and high-priced sweat suits was “off-putting” to some of the millionaire patrons that purchase courtside seats and luxury boxes.

This was also the league that acted swiftly when Ron Artest went into the stands and fought Detroit Pistons fans at the Palace in Auburn Hills in 2004, suspended former NBA star Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf when he refused to stand for the National Anthem in 1996, and has even fined two Los Angeles-based players, —Kobe Bryant of the Lakers and Matt Barnes of the Clippers—for slurs they’ve made on the court.

Yet Sterling was able to be a fairly public bigot without even so much as a slap on the wrist.
Condemnation for player offenses was often meted out quickly under the Stern administration. Anything that brought dishonor to the brand was handled quicker than Olivia Pope could come up with a press strategy.

But Stern isn’t the NBA’s commissioner anymore. Adam Silver is. And this the first assault on the brand on his watch. He’s investigating, but everyone wants to know how he’s ultimately going to handle this.

Clippers owner Donald Sterling has a history of racist incidents.

Clippers owner Donald Sterling has a history of racist incidents.

Silver needs to take a good, long look at Sterling’s history as an owner. He needs to talk to former Villanova coach Rollie Massamino and ask him if Sterling really said, “I wanna know why you think you can coach these niggers…” He needs to talk to Elgin Baylor about Sterling’s vision of “Southern Plantation”-type structure for the Clippers in which a White coach presided over “poor Black boys…”

And he really needs to get a copy of that 2009 Fair Housing suit if for no other reason but it shows a pattern.

And if finds that the smoke we’ve seen is coming from the equivalent of a California brushfire, Silver needs to figure out a way to handle this situation. Does the league take control of the Clippers? Do they try and work out a deal in which he sells the franchise?

The league only needs to look at how another professional sports league, Major League Baseball, handled a similar situation. When late Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott made remarks praising Adolf Hitler and referring to her Black players, Eric Davis and Dave Parker, as her “million-dollar niggers,” the league decided it had had enough of her antics.

Since racism in America’s pastime is just bad for business, Schott was suspended from day-to-day operations with the Reds and was eventually made to sell her stake in the team.

For a league that’s roughly 80 percent African American, it’s inappropriate for an avowed racist to own a franchise. It is bad for the NBA’s brand to be associated who doesn’t want African Americans to come to the arena and watch other African Americans play basketball.

The Black players who have been sanctioned by the NBA for violating some form of league decorum are looking to Silver to handle this situation with the same sense of urgency used against them.

Racists like Sterling have no place in a league that’s been marketing itself as a worldwide brand. If Silver has any business savvy, he needs to understand that talking diversity on one hand while ignoring Sterling and his racism on the other sends the wrong message to fans and players.

 

Hopkins Wants to Fight Floyd Mayweather Jr.

25 Apr

Boxing’s Oldest Champ wants  to unify light heavyweight crowns and then wants  a shot at Pretty Boy Floyd 

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Bernard Hopkins was back in the gym in this week after last Saturday's win over Beibut Shuemenov. Photo by Chris Murray.

Bernard Hopkins was back in the gym in this week after last Saturday’s win over Beibut Shuemenov. Photo by Chris Murray.

PHILADELPHIA—The one thing you will not see in this column about Bernard Hopkins is a line that talks about his defying the boundaries of age because with all his accomplishments in recent years.
It’s an old story, and telling it has gotten old as well.

I’m also getting out of the business of pleading with Hopkins, who turns 50 in January, to get out of the boxing game. Yes, he’s a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer as a boxer and a promoter who doesn’t have to prove a damn thing to anybody, but if he wants to keep taking (and giving) the punches, who am I to judge?
Besides, the real story with the legendary Philly fighter is always about what’s next. Nearly 48 hours after he easily dispatched Beibut Shumenov to unify half of the world light-heavyweight championship, Hopkins was training at Joe Hand’s Gym in North Philadelphia and talking about plans for future fights.

“It’s never a time to rest, especially in victory,” Hopkins said. “That’s the time to work harder and smarter …What fighter in the last 30-40 years that’s publicly made it known, win, lose or draw, that he’s in the gym Monday? This ain’t showing off, this ain’t bragging, this is what I do.”

As he approaches 50 with strands of gray popping out of his unshaven face, Hopkins wants to become the undisputed light-heavyweight champion.

And just for the sport of it, Hopkins wants to drop down in weight and take on Floyd Mayweather Jr., arguably the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in the history of the sport and definitely the greatest of his generation.

No, you didn’t read that wrong. Hopkins, who now calls himself, “The Alien”; wants a shot at Mayweather, who currently holds the World Boxing Council welterweight and World Boxing Association super welterweight championship belts.

“Yes, if it’s an opportunity to fight the baddest, one of the smartest minds, along with myself, in the game…Listen, why wouldn’t a chess player love to take on another good chess player?” Hopkins asked rhetorically.

If Hopkins gets into the ring with Mayweather, they would probably fight at 154 pounds. Hopkins said he would be able to handle that weight because he fought as Oscar De La Hoya at 154 pounds when he was the world middleweight champion.

By the way, Hopkins won that fight with a 9th-round knockout. I know that was 10 years ago. But after watching Hopkins beat up younger fighters like Antonio Tarver and Kelly Pavlik, I’ve learned to never the count the old man out.

But while he wants to take on Mayweather, who will defend his welterweight crown against Marcos Maidana on May 3, Hopkins won’t be sitting idly by. His next goal is to unify the light-heavyweight crown by taking on unbeaten World Boxing Council champion and Ring Magazine titleholder Adonis Stevenson (23-0-1 with 20 KOs).

“I’m collecting belts in the process, I’m not sitting back there, getting fat and eating bon-bons,” said Hopkins, who owns the International Boxing Council and the World Boxing Association titles. “I’m making history, too. It’s not like I’m waiting around doing the Amir Khan thing , ‘Please give me a shot and all that stuff.

“I’m going to continue being “The Alien,” and make history. The one guy out there that’s been knocking everybody’s heads off is Adonis Stevenson. …He’s a dangerous puncher. …Any second, any chance you get hit by him, you’re going to sleep. I need that risk to be in the game at this level.”

In addition to being a crafty fighter in the ring, Hopkins is pretty good at promoting and creating storylines.

In the scenario he’s set up, Hopkins would beat Stevenson. After that, he’d take on Mayweather (45-0) who is five fights away from breaking Rocky Marciano’s record for the most wins without a loss.

“Fifty-Fifty promotions,” Hopkins said. “He has a chance to get 50 wins, I turn 50. Fifty-Fifty promotions. …I want to show that I’m the first 50-year-old to be the baddest man and biggest paying guy in the boxing business. Wouldn’t that be a great way to leave the game?”

It would be for Hopkins. But the fun part would be watching the spectacle and the buildup to it. Can you imagine the trash talk between those two? Hopkins said he would have cameras on him 24-7 so the world can see him go through his training regimen.

A Hopkins-Mayweather fight would be a huge boost to boxing. The curiosity alone would hype the fight. Criticism of the fight as an absurdity by more than a few sports writers and columnists would only add fuel to the flame. It would be “Old School versus New School.”

And win or lose, the guts that Hopkins has to even dare to embark on this journey would only solidify his stature in the sport.

Love and Chip-Hop: Will DeSean Jackson Stay with the Eagles?

27 Mar

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said he likes DeSean Jackson. The team was field offers for the Birds speedy wide out. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said he likes DeSean Jackson. The team was field offers for the Birds speedy wide out. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—Watching the battle between the Philadelphia Eagles and disgruntled wide receiver DeSean Jackson has me shaking my head in incredulous disbelief.

(Cue soap opera music) In the latest episode of the reality series, “Love and D-Jax” (or “Chip-Hop Divas”) it was reported that Jackson spoke with Eagles’ head coach Chip Kelly and was told to not worry about anything and to come back  ready to work in April’s minicamps.

At NFL Owner’s meetings in Orlando, Kelly expressed his affection for Jackson,  acknowledged that he had a great season and then followed it up by reminding folks that this is still a business.

“DeSean did a nice job for us,” Kelly told reporters on Wednesday. “But we’re always going to do what’s best for the organization.”
As you know by now, published reports had the Eagles ready to give Jackson his release from the team if they couldn’t get anything for him in a trade. Jackson was as good as gone.

DeSean Jackson says he wants to stay with the Birds.

DeSean Jackson says he wants to stay with the Birds.

According to a story on Philly.com, a Las Vegas casino has even put odds on Jackson’s fate with the Eagles. The current odds are even money that Jackson stays, 6-4 that he’s traded and 7-2 that he gets released. Ladies and Gentlemen, dig deep in your pockets and place your bets.

The questions that keep boggling my mind as this whole thing unfolds are  did  anyone in the Eagles organization really think this thing through? And If you send Jackson on his merry way who you gonna get to replace him?
After he had a career year in which caught 82 passes for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns, what did Jackson do to offend Eagles management to the point that they are thinking about getting rid of him for the equivalent of magic beans?

Let’s face it, Jackson’s ability to stretch the field kept teams from employing eight guys in the box to defend running back LeSean McCoy and he also opened things up for wide outs like Riley Cooper, Jason Avant and tight ends like Zach Ertz to probe the middle of the field.

With the recent acquisition of versatile running back Darren Sproles, you would think that Jackson’s presence would make the Eagles offense even scarier to opposing defenses than it was last season.

Jackson, who is slated to receive $10.5 million this year, has been rumbling about wanting to renegotiate his contract, saying that he deserves it. From what I understand, Kelly is not happy with Jackson and feels he’s a detriment to team chemistry, especially since he said he wanted to re-do his contract a couple of days after the team lost to the Saints.

It didn’t help that Jackson got into an argument with receivers coach Bob Bicknell during the Eagles road loss to the Vikings a few weeks earlier.

It remains to be seen, especially in light of this recent public display of affection, if the Eagles management will still go ahead and send Jackson packing either by trade or release. Everybody in this business is always looking for the bigger and better deal.

But if they’re going to do that, you need somebody to take his place. I don’t believe that Cooper or Jeremy Maclin, who is coming off the second ACL injury of his career, is able to impact opposing defenses the way Jackson has for the last few years.

I would like to think that the Eagles would trade up in the draft to pick up a Sammy Watkins (Clemson) or a Mike Evans (Texas A&M), USC’s Marquise Lee, or Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks. You would think they would find someone who can make an immediate impact on the offense.

Letting Jackson go and not having an equivalent replacement is just downright foolish on the Eagles’ part. You know what you have in Jackson and he did fit the offense from a football standpoint even if you’re not a fan of his diva-like petulance.

While Jackson did produce during the regular season, he got shut down by Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis in the playoffs. He caught three passes for 51 yards after Lewis left the game with an injury.

Two days after his team’s tough playoff loss to the Saints, Jackson was telling reporters that he deserved to be making more money did not help things for him.

If re-negotiating his contract was Jackson’s goal, complaining about his current deal in the media was not a good move from a strategic standpoint on his part. You definitely don’t do that after a playoff loss in which you didn’t play that well.

With the team acquiring a weapon like Sproles, there might be even more opportunities to produce even bigger numbers to make an even stronger case for the Eagles to give him a new deal.
You should always let your performance on the field speak for itself. That’s always the best bargaining tool rather than sniping about it in the media.

While I think Jackson wanting to restructure his deal is ill-timed, the Eagles apparent willingness to give him away for virtually nothing is equally disturbing. With the NFL Draft coming up, there might be a deal you could cut for Jackson so that you can get a receiver that’s ready to make an impact immediately.

If the Eagles let Jackson walk for nothing or they player they do get turns out to be a player of lesser talent than what they let go, Kelly and general manager Howie Roseman will have a lot of explaining to do to the fan base if the wide receiver position becomes a liability.

Eagles Hope to Maintain Team Chemistry with Offseason Signings

7 Mar

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper will be with the Eagles for the next five years. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper will be with the Eagles for the next five years. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—Winning the NFC East and nearly beating the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs last season has convinced the Eagles that they are on the verge of being a really good team.

The priority for the Eagles front office this offseason is to keep the core group that they helped them get to the playoffs in 2013.  The Birds signings in the last week are an indication that they want to maintain the chemistry of the team that helped them to achieve a 10-6 record last season.

The Eagles gave contract extensions to All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters and center Jason Kelce. They also signed wide receiver Riley Cooper to a five-year deal and they signed wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who missed all of last season with a right-knee injury, to a one-year deal that could turn into a multi-year deal. The Birds also signed defensive end Cedric Thornton to a one-year contract.

“It’s a great reflection on what we’re doing and it’s starts with the ownership and we got to give credit to Jeffrey (Lurie) for giving us the flexibility to go out and sign our guys and always giving us the resources to do what want to do,” said Eagles general manager Howie Roseman. “That’s very lucky in the National Football League. Part of it is the culture we’re trying build here and we gotta get better. I think the players see what we want to accomplish and they want to be a part of it.”

The odd man out in all the Eagles signings was wide receiver Jason Avant, who was released by the team after being with the team for eight years.

But Cooper’s emergence as a weapon in the Eagles offense and the potential of a relatively young Maclin made Avant expendable.  Cooper, who signed a five-year deal reportedly worth $25 million, is coming off a career year in which caught 47 passes for 847 yards and eight touchdowns.

In 2012, Maclin, who’s had two knee surgeries, led the team in receptions and has caught at least 50 passes in his first four years with the team.

“People like Riley because he brings some physical toughness to your football team. He can go up and get the football … For us, (Cooper) fits what we do,” Roseman said. “We’re excited to have Jeremy back. That was our goal when we started the offseason. We drafted him in the first round and we excited about seeing what he can do in this offense. He adds another weapon to this offense.”

The re-signings of Maclin and Cooper to go along with DeSean Jackson might give you the impression that the Birds have all the receivers they need.  After all, Jackson is coming off the best year of his career with 82 receptions for 1,332 years and nine touchdowns.

You can make an argument that the Birds receiving corps is full of two or three’s along with a Jackson who is more of 1-A type of receiver. I still think the Eagles need to find a big No.1 possession receiver via free agency or the draft that would fit with this team. Roseman said he’s not ruling out that possibility.

“It’s about value,” Roseman said. “It’s about value in free agency and then it’s about taking the best player available in the draft.  I wouldn’t take anything off the table. I wouldn’t put any absolutes on any position right now at this moment. We don’t want to be in a position where we see a really good value in free agency and we say, ‘No,” just because we might a particular depth chart at the moment. And that’s the same thing for the draft.”

The emergence of Nick Foles as the Eagles starting quarterback  and LeSean McCoy leading the NFL in rushing in 2013 was thanks in large part to the outstanding performance of the offensive line led by Peters, who went to his sixth Pro Bowl, and Kelce, who signed seven-year deal reportedly worth $37.5 million dollars.

“The offensive line, more than other position group, really relies on each other,” Kelce said. “It’s always a tight-knit group. We have a tight, close group of our guys in our room. I’m excited to work with not just the starter, but the guys we have in the wings waiting to get their chance.  I think we have a great group. … I think this offensive line is in a great position to be successful.”

In 2014, the Eagles schedule will not be easy with games against the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks and the NFC South Champion Carolina Panthers.  With the team showing a commitment to keeping last year’s team relatively intact, Kelce believes the Birds are on the cusp of being a legitimate Super Bowl contender in the NFC.

“I haven’t been this excited for a football season since I can remember,” Kelce said. “With the way we ended it, with the way it looks like it’s headed, the genuine enthusiasm that everyone has, it’s a good time to be a Philadelphia Eagle.”

With or Without Romo, Eagles Get Ready for Showdown Against Dallas

24 Dec

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo may not play in Sunday's because of a back injury. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo may not play in Sunday’s because of a back injury. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—With the very distinct possibility that the Dallas Cowboys  will be without starting quarterback Tony Romo because of a back injury, it is easy for Eagles fans to think their squad will be a shoe-in  to win Sunday night’s game for the NFC East crown.

That’s not how the Eagles players and coaches are looking at it. For starters, they lost to the Cowboys 17-3 at home on Oct. 20.

If anything else, the Birds 48-30 road loss to a Minnesota Vikings squad playing without its starting quarterback and running back is a reminder to the Birds that Romo’s possible absence is no guarantee they will walk out of Cowboys Stadium with a win.

With a division title on the line, the Eagles players are saying than ill afford to take anybody lightly at this juncture of the season.

“This is the National Football League, man, you can’t overlook any team,” said Eagles cornerback Cary Williams. “Any given Sunday, I have been saying that week in and week out. As far as I’m concerned, it’s nameless, faceless individuals, we just have to go out there and get the job done. We have to play with intensity from the start. If we do that, we’re a force to be reckoned with.”

If Romo is not playing on Sunday, veteran backup quarterback Kyle Orton, who has 69 starts under his belt, will be the starting signal caller for the Cowboys. While Dallas will miss Romo’s ability to run and extend plays in the pass pocket, they still have running back DeMarco Murray, wide receiver Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten.

“If anything, we’re more heightened, more aware of what’s going on,” said Eagles inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans.  “They’re going to run the ball more if that’s their plan. Kyle Orton is a capable guy. It’s not like it’s some practice squad guy they called up to run the show. He’s a starter in this league, he’s made plays and won games in this league. We’re not taking anything lightly by any means.”

Meanwhile in Dallas, ESPN.com reported that Romo received an epidural injection in his back to relieve the pain and reduce the inflammation on the herniated disc in his back. Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett has been saying that Romo is day-to-day.

With Romo possibly on the shelf, the Eagles will no doubt being seeing heavy doses of Murray, who scored the winning touchdown last Sunday against Washington. So far this season, Murray has gained 1,073 yards with nine touchdowns and is averaging over five yards per carry. If he gets it going in the running game, Orton will have some opportunities on play-action to get the ball to Bryant and Witten.

“We’re not going to underestimate him, we’re going prepare for him like he’s a Pro Bowl running back,” said defensive end Cedric Thornton. “From watching the last game, we know that they want to run it a little bit more than the previous game. Our offensive line is one of the best in the NFL and they’re going prepare us and have us ready to go on Sunday night.”

Defensive coordinator Billy Davis said he figured the Cowboys were going to run the football more in this game whether it’s Romo or Orton behind the center.

“One of the things we emphasize is the offensive scheme, we don’t think it will change that greatly,” Davis said.  “No matter which quarterback we get, we’re prepared for both.”

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles said he is praying for Romo’s health and expects to see a fired-up Cowboys squad who will rally behind Romo and Orton.

“I know that Dallas is going to rally for (Romo),” Foles said. “In situations like that, teams are resilient and they’re going to be ready to go. It’s important for me to have a great week of preparation to put my team in a position where I can execute the plays.”