THE WORDS still ring less than 3 weeks later. They seem to mean more, somehow, under darkening skies. They were spoken by Eagles owner

Jeffrey Lurie and they were intended to convey an organizational philosophy. There was no mistaking what he was trying to say, no need for context, explanation or elaboration.

The philosophy, Lurie said, "isn't about rebuilding, retooling, or anything - this is going for it. That's our approach. It's pedal-to-the-metal.''

Which means they have no alternative now, no choice, but to conjure up a starting-caliber wide receiver and get him in here immediately, right?

Well, doesn't it?

Now that Kevin Curtis has caught the sports-hernia bug - who knew it was so contagious, and will somebody please make sure that Brian Westbrook is up-to-date on his immunizations? - a lot of things just changed for the Eagles.

Now that Curtis figures to miss at least a month of the season following surgery scheduled for today, now that the Eagles are going to be without their best wide receiver for the start of the season and potentially longer, they have to go out and scare up a replacement. That is especially true given the hamstring that the other starting wide receiver, Reggie Brown, continues to nurse.

Pedal, metal.

Now.

To tell them the name of the wide receiver they should acquire is to pretend to know the personnel end of the business better than they do, which is foolhardy. That said, they still have to do something. They owe it to the rest of the team, which must have begun to notice the shadows cast by a gathering storm of injuries - at wideout and along the defensive line, especially. They owe it to quarterback Donovan McNabb, whom everyone believes is entering the or-else year of his tenure as the Eagles' starter.

There can be no pretending here, not if they are really serious about getting something done this season. To bide their time is to waste everybody's time. They need to add a piece.

This is not to say they have been wrong in the past about how they evaluated wide receivers - because they were not wrong. Curtis, Brown and Co. are a skilled-enough group to win a lot of games in the NFL if McNabb is healthy and confident. The Eagles really do have that part of it right.

The problem is, there really wasn't much of a margin for error - and the loss of Curtis combined with Brown's iffy hammy just reduced that margin to nothing. They can't bluff their way through this.

The counter-argument goes like this: The expectation is that Brown should be OK for Opening Day against St. Louis, and that Curtis will have his surgery and do his rehab and get back relatively quickly. Given that, why would you spend a fortune on another wideout who will be a redundancy by Columbus Day?

The problem is that you cannot operate with those kinds of positive expectations. Given the nature of the sports-hernia injury - and the Eagles know enough about it to publish a textbook at this point, after Donovan McNabb, Sheldon Brown, L.J. Smith, Dirk Johnson and now Curtis - to project a speedy and uncomplicated recovery is only for brave people.

Realists, on the other hand, need a backup plan - and that is especially true given the Reggie Brown complication.

There is no question that the Eagles have the trade ammunition to get something done. First of all, they still have the Lito card to play - with cornerback Lito Sheppard still the third wheel in the defensive backfield and still hoping to go someplace and get a chance to start.

They also have an extra first-round draft choice next season, which they might be able to slice and dice into some kind of package - the other team gets the first-rounder, the Eagles get a wideout and a high second-rounder in return, or something like that.

There is no question that it would be bold (if not Anquan Boldin). But if not now, when? You do not want to enter the season in a circumstance where the offense's only choice is to wear Westbrook to a nub. You do not want to leave McNabb feeling alone and unconfident in the weapons arrayed around him.

If Kevin Kolb was the starting quarterback, and the team was starting over, you would suck it up and wait for people to get healthy. But that isn't the situation, not this year, not if Jeffrey Lurie meant what he said.

Pedal, metal.

Now. *

Send e-mail to hofmanr@phillynews.com.

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