Brian Westbrook is walking better than Jim Johnson these days -- we know that, at least. And we're going to go out on a limb and predict that Westbrook's knee will have a bigger impact on the Eagles' NFC Championship Game appearance in Arizona than the defensive coordinator's balky back. But Johnson's condition is no less of a closely-guarded secret around the NovaCare complex.
Johnson was walking with a cane again Thursday, when he faced reporters for his weekly news conference. Asked whether he will coach from the press box, as he did last week at the Giants, Johnson said that would be a "gametime decision." Asked how he injured his back, Johnson hesitated, then made a joke about swinging a golf club too hard. But asked as he left the stage how long it had been since he'd played golf, Johnson -- who has been a tad busy these last several weeks -- acknowledged that it had been quite a long while ago.
On more serious matters, Johnson said you'll probably see more of his standout d-tackles, Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley, than you did in the Thanksgiving rout of the Cards, because the Eagles got ahead 21-0 midway through the second quarter in that game, and ended up playing a lot of nickel and dime packages. Also, the Cards are running the ball with Edgerrin James much more than they were in November.
"I think their philosophy has changed," Johnson said.
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg acknowledged that the defense's strong play has allowed his unit to "play to the defense" a little, sticking with the run even when it isn't productive, maybe not sweating being forced to settle for a field goal. Against Arizona's potent offense, it's unclear whether Mornhinweg will have that luxury.
Asked about his running game, Mornhinweg said: "It's not very good right now. It's got to get better."
Mornhinweg said the Eagles' offense has handled crowd noise just fine the past two weeks, at Minnesota and at the Giants, and that the Birds really don't care whether Arizona opens or closes the roof to the University of Phoenix Stadium.
Special teams coordinator Rory Segrest, who might care a little more because of the potential effect on the kicking game, said he isn't certain, but he is hearing the roof will be open Sunday.