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Cunningham May Miss Eagles Playoff Game

December 27, 1995

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ If Philadelphia coach Ray Rhodes decides to pull quarterback Rodney Peete in win Saturday’s NFC wild card game against the Detroit Lions, there could be a problem.

Peete’s backup, Randall Cunningham, may be in Las Vegas, where his wife is expected to deliver the couple’s first child on Sunday.

Cunningham said Wednesday that he will definitely fly west to be with his wife, Felicity, if she goes into labor before her scheduled delivery date.

``My wife is more important than football,″ Cunningham said. ``If you have a wife, I think you understand. If something happens wrong, you’d never be able to live that down. You’ve got to get your priorities right.″

Rhodes said he understands Cunningham’s feelings.

``When you’re dealing with family matters, it’s hard for me to tell a guy, `No.′ It’s a family matter,″ he said. ``It will be Randall’s decision on what he’s going to do in that situation.″

Cunningham said he asked most of his teammates what they would do, and most said they would want to be there with their wives. ``She wants me to be there right now,″ he said.

The situation is reminiscent of one involving Houston offensive tackle David Williams in 1993. Williams missed a game after the birth of his son, and the Oilers withheld his $111,111 pay for the game, saying he could have made it to the game after his wife gave birth.

The incident got national publicity, and Rhodes obviously is not anxious to have that kind of controversy distract his team as they prepare for the Lions.

``I’ve seen this whole thing two years ago in Houston and you guys are not going to get me caught up in that,″ Rhodes said. ``It’s going to be Randall’s decision.″

It’s a difficult decision, admitted Peete, who was married June 10 to actress Holly Robinson of TV’s ``Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper.″

``It’s a tough, tough deal,″ he said. ``I don’t know how I would react to that situation.″

If Cunningham isn’t available to the Eagles, third-stringer Jay Fiedler would be the backup. Fiedler, who made the team two seasons ago as a free agent from Dartmouth, has yet to take a snap in a regular-season NFL game.

``I’ve been ready this whole season,″ Fiedler said. ``It’s part of my job to be ready.″

Peete has struggled in the last six weeks of the season, throwing nine interceptions and only two touchdowns, while fumbling five times.

Rhodes implied that Peete won’t last long if he gets off to a slow start against the Lions, the team with which he spent his first five pro seasons (1989-93).

``He’s got to do his job, just like everybody else,″ Rhodes said. ``We can’t leave any resource untapped.″

Peete, who is 9-3 since replacing Cunningham as the Eagles starter Oct. 1, said he can feel the pressure. He knows Rhodes won’t hesitate to make a change: he benched Peete for two series in Philadelphia’s Nov. 26 game against Washington after the Eagles’ offense sputtered.

``My performance hasn’t been up to par and this is a do-or-die situation, so I would imagine that if I were to struggle for a half or a little bit over a quarter or so, that something might happen,″ he said.

The Eagles’ offensive line hasn’t always given Peete enough time to throw, but Peete said most of his troubles are his own fault.

``I’ve got to make better decisions,″ he said. ``Earlier in the season, when I first started playing, I was just taking what they were going to give me, and it didn’t matter if it was a 3-yard, a 4-yard or a 5-yard gain.

``The last few weeks, I’ve tried to make plays when they really weren’t there, maybe pressing a little bit, trying to make something happen when we’ve gotten behind or it’s a tight ballgame. Those are the things that get you in trouble.″

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