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Correll Buckhalter Out for the Season

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  • Correll Buckhalter Out for the Season

    PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A couple of framed jerseys sat on the floor inside Correll Buckhalter's locker, and a few others hung underneath a motivational quote typed on a white piece of paper.

    The Philadelphia Eagles' star-crossed running back won't be getting much use out of those jerseys and he'll certainly need more encouragement after having season-ending knee surgery for the third time in four years.

    Buckhalter, who missed nearly all of training camp, underwent surgery to repair a torn patella tendon in his right knee Tuesday. Last year, he had season-ending surgery on the same tendon after he injured it in a preseason game.

    "He's a great kid," Eagles coach Andy Reid said Wednesday. "He worked so hard in the offseason. He came back in phenomenal shape. We were looking forward to getting him back out there. He did some good things. For that to happen, your heart goes out to the guy."

    Buckhalter was injured in practice on Aug. 5, but initial MRI tests were inconclusive. Dr. James Andrews, the same surgeon who operated on Buckhalter's knee last year, performed the surgery Tuesday in Alabama.

    Rick Burkholder, the team's head athletic trainer, said Andrews called the injury "a freak thing."

    "We're going to rehab him like he's going to play again," Burkholder said.

    A fifth-year pro out of Nebraska, Buckhalter has been an asset when healthy but missed all of the 2002 season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team's first minicamp.

    Is the latest injury career-threatening?

    "That's not fair to say and it's not my decision to make," Burkholder said. "My job is to rehab him as if it's his first time. He has an advantage because he's been through two long rehabs."

    Buckhalter, who is signed through next season, averaged 4.5 yards per carry as a rookie and chipped in with 542 yards and eight touchdowns as part of a three-pronged running attack with Duce Staley and Brian Westbrook in 2003.

    With Buckhalter out and Staley gone, Westbrook emerged as the Eagles' top back, totaling 1,515 total yards and leading NFL running backs with 73 catches for 703 yards and six touchdowns.

    The injury leaves the Eagles thin and small at running back, with Westbrook, rookie Ryan Moats and third-year pro Reno Mahe as the Eagles' top three runners. Westbrook and Mahe are generously listed at 5-foot-10 and Moats is 5-8.

    It's possible the Eagles will add a veteran running back once teams narrow down their rosters. Dorsey Levens, who spent two of the previous three seasons in Philadelphia, remains unsigned. Eddie George, Tyrone Wheatley and Troy Hambrick also are unemployed.

    The NFC champions have now lost three players for the season. Starting receiver Todd Pinkston went down the first week of training camp and reserve wideout Justin Jenkins was hurt in the second preseason game.

    "He looked great after being on IR last year," Mahe said of Buckhalter. "I'm disappointed because I know how hard he worked."

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