The football-size ice pack wrapped around Kevin Curtis' left knee might not suggest as much, but the Eagles wide receiver said he anticipates suiting up Sunday for his first game in exactly three months.

"I expect to play," Curtis said yesterday after the Eagles prepared indoors to play the 49ers at Lincoln Financial Field. "Obviously, with Jeremy [Maclin] getting hurt, we're a little shorter."

The Eagles have not officially declared Maclin out, but the rookie did not practice for the second straight day. After Maclin tore the plantar fascia in his left foot on Sunday against the Giants, coach Andy Reid said the starter would likely miss one game and possibly another.

On Wednesday, however, Reid didn't shut the door on Maclin's chances of making it back by Sunday. Last week, the receiver missed the first two days of practice only to return by Friday. He injured his foot in the first quarter, however, and did not return.

Curtis traveled to New York but did not dress. It is the closest he's gotten to playing since Week 2. He battled through a knee sprain during the preseason and started the first two games of the regular season, but never appeared to be at full strength.

The Eagles shut him down the next week, and he had arthroscopic surgery in October.

Curtis, 31, did not estimate how close he is to returning to full strength.

"I'm making progress," he said. "That's the biggest thing. . . . I feel better this week than I did last week."

If Maclin is indeed out, Curtis said he would be primarily used as the fourth receiver. Reggie Brown, therefore, would start alongside DeSean Jackson with Jason Avant the slot receiver.

"I just want to play," Curtis said. "I fully expect to be accountable when I'm out there."

Brent Celek, meanwhile, returned to practice after sitting out the previous day's workout. Even though the tight end participated only on a limited basis, Celek said he expects to play Sunday.

Who's at linebacker?

The shuffling at linebacker continued.

Akeem Jordan will play more than he did last week, when he returned from a hyperextended knee that kept him out of four games, according to defensive coordinator Sean McDermott.

The time will still be primarily in the middle, however, even though Jordan was the starting weakside linebacker before his injury. He was in for about 20 plays against the Giants, McDermott said.

McDermott was asked why he preferred to keep Will Witherspoon, who was brought in to play the middle, on the weak side even though Jordan was the most consistent linebacker before his injury.

"We want the best three on the field," McDermott said. "You hate to keep moving players around from a continuity standpoint . . . but injuries haven't allowed for as much of that as we would have liked up to this point."

Jordan said he played middle linebacker in college at James Madison, where a 4-2-5 scheme was employed. Still, he wasn't sure what made the coaches envision him as the seventh linebacker to play in the middle this season.

"I don't know where it came from," Jordan said. "You'd have to ask them where it came from."

While Jordan's extra workload is sure to cut into Jeremiah Trotter's playing time, McDermott said the 32-year-old was still part of the middle- linebacker rotation. Trotter, who had a team high of 11 tackles last week, said he had only touched the tip of iceberg in his return.

"Keep watching the show," Trotter said. "It's not that I believe, I know I have [not] played my best football yet in my career."

Extra points

Special-teams coordinator Ted Daisher said Quintin Demps would return kicks Sunday. Demps, who returned for the Eagles last season, filled in for Macho Harris on one return against the Giants last week after the rookie injured his chest. An excited Demps was asked if he would need time to ease back into returning. "Some guys," he said. "That's not how Demps do it.". . . Wide receiver DeSean Jackson was fined $2,000 for not adhering to the league's uniform rules, according to ESPN-FM (97.5). The exact violation was unknown.. . . Defensive end Trent Cole, who was limited at Wednesday's practice with a hamstring strain, was back full-time yesterday.