PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Chad Lewis wore his Philadelphia Eagles jersey to China with pride, even though he was unemployed.

The three-time Pro Bowl tight end was out of a job after injuring his foot on his second touchdown catch in Philadelphia’s victory over Atlanta in the NFC championship game last January.

Considering the severity of the injury, a Lis Franc sprain, and Lewis’ age – he turned 34 last month – his career seemed in jeopardy.

But Lewis is back in the NFL and with the Eagles again, giving quarterback Donovan McNabb a familiar target. Lewis returned to Philadelphia last week, replacing dismissed wide receiver Terrell Owens. His first game back is an important division matchup against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night.

“I worked really hard to get back here,” Lewis said. “It’s been 91/2 months and I have worked every day.”

Lewis caught TD passes of 3 and 2 yards in the conference title game, but hurt his foot on the second score that sealed Philadelphia’s win. He had surgery and didn’t play in the Super Bowl loss to New England.

His injury is more common in automobile accidents and equestrian sports. Eagles safety Brian Dawkins missed nine games in 2003 with a similar injury that wasn’t as severe and didn’t require surgery. In 2000, Eagles running back Duce Staley had surgery and missed the final 13 games, including playoffs, with an injury to the same joint.

Before he went down, Lewis’ role in the offense had been reduced. L.J. Smith became the starter last season, and Lewis adjusted to being a backup. He had doubts he’d play again after getting hurt.

“That thought always crosses your mind,” Lewis said. “When you turn 30 in the NFL, you are an old man. This is a young man’s game and you have to have a passion to play it, to compete, to prepare and I still have that. That has driven me every day through this long offseason. If I didn’t have that, I would have known it was time to go.”

Lewis originally signed with the Eagles as an undrafted free agent in 1997. He caught four TD passes that year, but was released two games into the next season and signed with St. Louis.

He spent half the 1999 season with the Rams before getting cut and returning to Philadelphia. The Rams won the Super Bowl that season, while the Eagles finished 5-11.

In 2000, Lewis emerged as McNabb’s favorite receiver, catching 69 passes for 735 yards and three TDs to earn the first of his three consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl.

Over the next three seasons, Lewis caught 41, 42 and 23 passes. He had 29 catches for 267 yards and three TDs last year.

“He looks good,” offensive coordinator Brad Childress said. “He didn’t show any ill effects at all. He didn’t struggle at all from a system standpoint. There are a couple of things that are different, but he moved right back in with the motions and where he was supposed to be.”

If Lewis hadn’t found a job in football, perhaps he could’ve pursued a broadcasting career. Though he’s never announced a game in English, Lewis was part of the first crew to ever broadcast a Super Bowl live in China in 2004. Lewis, who speaks fluent Mandarin, was the color analyst when the Patriots beat the Carolina Panthers. He previously spent time in Taiwan on his LDS mission from Oct. 1990-92.

AP-ES-11-14-05 1428EST


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