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Runyan Will Play, Despite His Injury

The reporters are crowded around Jon Runyan's locker. They want to know if the Eagles' Ironman is hurting any more than usual, if the injured knee that has kept him out of practice all week, and for weeks prior, will be a problem on Sunday when the team lines up against the ferocious Giants and their pass rush led by All-Pro end Justin Tuck.

Runyan, who has started 211 consecutive games, including playoffs, smirks, and then laughs.

"I don't know. I'll tell you about halftime. That's when I'll be a better judge of it," he says. "That's the biggest thing. You can't really test it. If it decides to get mad at you and flare up, you're back in the hole."

Runyan has been through more than his share of aches and pains. An offensive tackle is not, as head coach Andy Reid suggested, in a "pillow fight" on the field. Runyan is involved in trench warfare, the nastiest of the nasty stuff. There are pileups he has avoided, crashing defensive ends, running backs smashing into his back after being tackled.

And yet here is Runyan, after another week of no practice, after spending his days receiving treatment on his knee and spending extra hours in the meeting room, preparing to go against the younger, stronger and faster Tuck, as well as a complicated and extremely aggressive Giants blitz scheme.

That is he able to make up for the lost practice repetitions is remarkable. Instead of working on the field during the week, Runyan plays the game in his head, visualizing the assignment and the engagement with the defensive player.

"It's not so much the work I'm missing, it's the visual, seeing the stuff, seeing those reps," said Runyan. "Mentally you have to step through that kid of stuff even more, whether it's going through the playbook two or three more times doing that type of stuff that you have to do. That is the biggest thing. Physically, pretty much your body knows when it feels right and when it feels wrong and you can go out and do that. It's a muscle-memory thing.

"It's just a matter of getting enough of the looks in. Even watching the guys when they come in from practice, going into the film room and watching the mistakes they've made and learn from that type of stuff as if it were you out there doing it."

Runyan has manned the right tackle spot for all of this decade, and he says there have "been a few times" when he almost didn't answer the bell. Last season, for example, Runyan suffered a tail bone injury when he slipped in the cold tub in the athletic training room, an injury that bothered him the rest of the year. Runyan was on the floor prior to the Vikings game in 2007 and General Manager Tom Heckert was yelling at Runyan, asking him if he was going to play.

Of course, Runyan played. And he played as he always plays -- consistently, technically sound, physically.

The Eagles need a good performance from Runyan on Sunday in this huge game.

"If I go into the game feeling like this, I'll be all right," he said. "The day after doing all that kind of stuff is what you're trying to avoid, but it's going to happen and you know you're going to have to deal with it all over again."

Runyan's mental makeup and his toughness have allowed him to be so incredibly reliable. He has had injuries that would have certainly sidelined other players, or at least convinced them to take a game off. Nobody would have questioned Runyan if he had skipped a game here or there over the years. There were times when Runyan didn't *have *to play. He could have watched a game from the sidelines and relaxed.

But that isn't what Runyan is all about. He has this love for the game that few players have. He has a passion to play. Maybe the guy is just too darn mean when he is in uniform to miss a game.

Maybe he is afraid that if he misses a game, he will miss a lot of them and be replaced and maybe that fear of losing his job all of these years is what drives a player who was formerly a fourth-round draft pick by Tennessee.

"I've had a lot of luck. I haven't had any catastrophic injuries," he said. "I've been on the cusp of mentally not being able to deal with the pain in the past, but I've just kind of been able to talk myself into being able to do it. I've been able to go out and force myself to do it and I kind of just block it out of my mind.

"I've never been injured to the point where I can't function. That's just it. Some people, it weighs on their mind too much. I don't feel that way."

Mind over matter; body over bruises. That is the way for Runyan, who will need to come through in the clutch again on Sunday, despite the aches and pains.

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