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Samuel set to play with a hurting hip

Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel did not practice yesterday because of a hip injury, but all indications are that he will play Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Eagles cornerback

Asante Samuel

did not practice yesterday because of a hip injury, but all indications are that he will play Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Chad Johnson or Chad Ocho Cinco - whichever you prefer - said he is looking forward to seeing Samuel.

"I can't wait to see Asante," the Bengals' star receiver said Wednesday during a conference call with the media. "I owe him a little bit. Two years ago, he picked off a ball, which caused [quarterback] Carson [Palmer] and I to have a lot of bickering on the sideline. He caused a lot of negative headlines. So now it's my time to get him back. Every time I see him in the off-season, I'm always talking trash, so I think this is a good time to redeem myself. And I will commence to baptize him come Sunday."

Samuel's interception was one of six he had last season for New England. Ryan Fitzpatrick will play in place of the injured Palmer on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.

Samuel said yesterday that he had heard about Johnson's remarks.

"I got the message," Samuel said with a smile.

The cornerback said "it would be fun" if he could cause another sideline blowup between receiver and quarterback.

Elsewhere on the cornerback front, defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said he expects to have Lito Sheppard on the field with starters Samuel and Sheldon Brown about 60 or 70 percent of the time Sunday.

Sheppard barely played in the loss to the Giants, but Johnson said that was only because the veteran cornerback missed most of the practice week with a strained groin.

"He was going to be an emergency corner," Johnson said. "He will play a lot this week. He hadn't practiced all week [last week], and I didn't think we were going to have him on Sunday, to tell you the truth. I didn't know until Sunday morning that we were going to have him for sure."

Sheppard's services could be valuable against the Bengals. Even though they have the lowest-ranked offense in the NFL, the Bengals have two quality receivers in T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Johnson. They have combined for 98 catches, 926 yards and seven touchdowns.

Special teams

The most improved aspect of the Eagles this season has been special teams, particularly in the return game. A year ago, with

Correll Buckhalter


J.R. Reed

as the primary kick returners, the Eagles finished 19th in the league in average starting field position after kickoffs. This season, with

Quintin Demps

handling kickoffs, they have improved to 10th. Demps is ranked 14th in the NFL with a 24.9-yard average per return.

DeSean Jackson's 11-yard average on punt returns ranks ninth in the NFL and is a full 3 yards better than Reno Mahe's 8-yard average from a year ago.

The Eagles, however, still have struggled in coverage, where they rank 19th.

Extra points

Former Eagle

Al Wistert

, captain of the 1948 and 1949 NFL championship teams and a onetime coach at Riverside High School, visited the NovaCare Complex yesterday. Wistert, whose No. 73 is retired by the Eagles, flew in from his home in Grants Pass, Ore., to be inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame last night. Former Eagles receiver

Harold Carmichael

, the team's director of player relations, was also inducted. . . . Long snapper

Jon Dorenbos

(shoulder) returned to practice after sitting out Wednesday.

- Bob Brookover