The man who has played in more NFL games than any other Eagle didn't play in any from Sept. 23 to Dec. 2, the only time something like that has happened since he was a rookie in 1994.

In fact, in a 7-year span, 2000 through last season, defensive tackle Kimo von Oelhoffen missed one game - in 2001, with an ankle injury. His streak of 108 successive games ended when he was deactivated Sept. 30.

"These guys have some really, really good young linemen," said von Oelhoffen, who was brought in after the Jets cut him at the end of training camp.

Starters Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley have been highlights this season, and there was some sorting out to go through behind them - second-year man LaJuan Ramsey looked like the best of the non-starters for a while, and the Eagles signed ex-Colt Montae Reagor in the offseason thinking he would have an impact. But Reagor hasn't played since Oct. 28, and when Bunkley had to miss the Seattle game 2 weeks ago, defensive coordinator Jim Johnson plugged in von Oelhoffen. Johnson has mentioned repeatedly since then how glad he is that he did - von Oelhoffen is back in the rotation now, as the third tackle.

"I'm very happy," said von Oelhoffen, who turns 37 next month. Sunday he will play in his 197th career game. "I love playing football, I just do. This game is about roles. You have different roles you play to win football games. This is my role."

Von Oelhoffen said he worked hard during the time he wasn't playing, even during the games. "Extra running, extra lifting, hitting bags, so when your time comes to play, you're prepared. You can prepare to play without playing. You can. I've been lucky to figure out ways of doing that."

Johnson said yesterday that with Patterson and Bunkley fighting injuries, "we really need to rest them a little bit more and try to get Kimo a little bit more in the rotation this week."

If he plays in the Eagles' final three games, von Oelhoffen will be at 199 for his career with the Bengals, Steelers, Jets and Eagles.

"I have no intentions of stopping playing," he said.

L.J. update

Tight end L.J. Smith has had a star-crossed contract year, sports- hernia surgery, then surgery to clean out scar tissue, now an MCL sprain (and a rib problem that Smith said isn't serious). Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg acknowledged yesterday that Smith never quite got to 100 percent this season, and now, with the knee healing and just three games left, he won't. Smith is not expected to play in Dallas.

Sometimes potential free agents who didn't have the kind of years they expected take 1-year contracts and start the clock over again the next season. Smith, whose talks with the Eagles stalemated long ago, said he didn't know if that's a possibility.

"I don't know how that's going to go," he said. "If I said anything, it'd be just speculation, guessing."

Smith acknowledged he was "kind of anxious" to know where he's headed. "I'm not anxious to leave, I'm anxious to [resolve things], wherever it may be," he said.

Birdseed

Last week's roster manipulations - safety Marcus Paschal was brought back after being released, because the Eagles were afraid Brian Dawkins wouldn't be able to play against the Giants - resulted in offensive tackle Pat McCoy finally being signed by the Falcons this week, after all. Atlanta had tried to sign McCoy off the practice squad, but the Eagles promoted him before cutting him again to bring back Paschal. So now there's a new practice-squad offensive tackle, Ramiro Pruneda, from Mexico . . . Not practicing yesterday were running back Correll Buckhalter (concussion), safety Brian Dawkins (back), offensive tackle Jon Runyan (knee), and tight end L.J. Smith (knee). Running back Brian Westbrook was a limited participant. *