As a recent headline dubbed Terrell Owens, “Open Mouth, Insert Bench”; from all reports, it sounds like the Eagles are taking the same stance with Owens that the Tampa Bay Bucs did a few years ago with Keyshawn Johnson:
The tempestuous star receiver won’t return to the Philadelphia Eagles this season — or probably ever — “a result of a large number of situations that accumulated over a long period of time,” coach Andy Reid said Monday.
Owens was suspended for Sunday night’s 17-10 loss at Washington, and will remain suspended for three more games without pay. After that, the Eagles plan to deactivate him for the rest of the season.
Reid said the outspoken player “had been warned repeatedly about the consequences of his actions.”
“We gave Terrell every opportunity to avoid this outcome,” he said.
Owens was suspended Saturday, two days after he said the Eagles showed “a lack of class” for not publicly recognizing his 100th career touchdown catch in a game on Oct. 23. In the same interview with ESPN.com on Thursday, Owens said the Eagles would be better off with Green Bay’s Brett Favre at quarterback instead of Donovan McNabb.
Owens also was involved in a fight last week with former Eagles defensive end Hugh Douglas, who remains with the team as its “ambassador.” Owens apologized for his comments about the organization in a brief statement on Friday, but he didn’t apologize to McNabb or the team.
“The league has been notified by the players’ union that they will be grieving our right to take that action,” Reid said, “therefore there is nothing more that I can say at this point.”
Owens’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus, refused to comment. Owens’ relationship with the Eagles took a drastic turn after he fired longtime agent David Joseph, hired Rosenhaus and demanded a new contract just one season into the seven-year, $48.97 million deal he signed when he came to Philadelphia in March 2004.
Owens is scheduled to earn $3.25 million this season, meaning the four-game suspension would cost him almost $800,000.
The Eagles will have to pay Owens nearly $1 million to stay home the final five games.
Owens will either be traded or released after the season. He is due to receive a $5 million roster bonus in March 2006, so the Eagles will decide his fate before then.
Owens made more than $9 million last season, when he helped lead Philadelphia to the Super Bowl.
Two years ago, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers decided they’d had enough of Keyshawn Johnson and did something similar.
After Johnson criticized coach Jon Gruden, the Super Bowl champion Bucs deactivated the star receiver and sent him home for the final six games with pay.
The Eagles are 4-4 this season. And McNabb, who feuded with Owens throughout the summer and has been a constant target of his criticism, finally took a stand in the matter, saying the team might be “better off” without Owens.
“Obviously it is tough losing a guy of his caliber, his ability, but I think we might be better off,” McNabb said after throwing an interception that sealed the loss to Washington.
“I think what we did tonight, we showed that we played well together. I think we also showed that when given the opportunity, guys can make plays for us. We’re 4-4. We’re not 1-7. I think that’s the way to look at it. For the guys in the locker room, we win together and we lose together,” he said.
Asked to elaborate on how the team could be better off without its top receiver, McNabb emphasized the remaining players are united with the same goal of winning.
“Nothing against him and his attitude. It’s just that when you get out there on the field, it’s about playing together,” McNabb said. “I think we all played with a lot of attitude and a lot of adrenaline. Guys played well together. It was unfortunate that we didn’t win this game, but I think it may be a steppingstone for us to move forward.”
Rookie Reggie Brown filled in for Owens against Washington and caught five passes for 94 yards, including a 56-yard TD reception. But the Eagles’ offense continued to struggle and couldn’t score the tying touchdown with three shots from the Redskins 7 in the final minutes.
The Eagles are 17-5 with Owens, including a 24-21 loss to New England in the Super Bowl. In that game, Owens had nine catches for 122 yards after defying his doctor’s advice and playing 6 1/2 weeks after ankle surgery.
They’re 2-1 without him in games that matter, winning twice in the NFC playoffs.
Owens was set to earn base salaries of $770,000 in 2006, $5.5 million in 2007, $6.5 million in 2008, $7.5 million in 2009, and $8.5 million in 2010.
This was the second time Owens has been suspended during his controversial 10-year career. In 2000, he was suspended one game by San Francisco coach Steve Mariucci following his infamous touchdown celebrations on the Dallas Cowboys’ famed star logo at the center of Texas Stadium.
Owens clashed with management this summer and earned a one-week exile from training camp after a heated dispute with Reid that followed a shouting match with offensive coordinator Brad Childress.
Where does Owens go from here? Keyshawn Johnson was able to reunite with Bill Parcells in Dallas after his crash and burn (and benching) in Tampa, and other than a brief tussle with Drew Bledsoe during (ironically) the Cowboys blowout of the Eagles this year, has been from all accounts, relatively frisson-free, which is as much of a statement of the respect Johnson has for Parcells as anything–and vice versa. But Owens has burned so many bridges, that he’s going to be a tough sell to any team. As
Chris Sprow of The Chicago Sports Review writes:
I asked an NFL agent over the phone what he might do were he representing Owens at this point.