Owens stiff-arms Ravens

Pro Bowl wide receiver expresses his desire to play in Philadelphia

`Owens has a binding contract'

Despite protests, Ravens don't intend to trade him

Terrell Owens Speaks

March 06, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

If Terrell Owens has his way, the mercurial Pro Bowl wide receiver will never play for the Ravens.

A day after he was traded from the San Francisco 49ers for a second-round draft pick, Owens wrote on his Web site, "I'm a Raven for now, but not for long," and reiterated his desire to play for the Philadelphia Eagles on Fox Sports' Best Damn Sports Show Period.

The Ravens, meanwhile, remain firm on keeping Owens despite his repeated protests, and attributed his troubling remarks as a tactic to renegotiate his current contract. Team officials are still looking to bring Owens to Baltimore next week for a physical, which would be the final step in completing what many believe would be the biggest trade in the Ravens' nine-year history.

But according to Owens, 30, a player known for his over-the-top antics and no-holds-barred sound bites, this trade will result only in controversy - and not in his suiting up for the Ravens.

"Right now, Terrell Owens is kind of unemployed at the moment," Owens said in a television interview yesterday. "I don't have anything bad to say about Baltimore. And Baltimore was definitely one of my choices, but they weren't high on the list. My priority was trying to get to the Eagles."

Owens, however, still ranks high on the Ravens' list. The four-time Pro Bowl performer is the big-play receiver that the Ravens have desperately wanted since coach Brian Billick arrived six seasons ago.

When told of Owens' comments, Ravens officials implied that they - and not Owens - have all the leverage in this situation since they control his rights under NFL rules.

"Terrell Owens has a valid and binding contract with the Baltimore Ravens," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "This is not the first time I've heard of a player being disgruntled. Ray Lewis was disgruntled before he got his new deal. A disgruntled football player is nothing new to me. It's part of the business."

Asked if the Ravens had any intentions of trading Owens, Newsome said: "No. Right now, I want Terrell Owens to be playing for us opening day."

Owens' main point of contention is not having the freedom to choose where he could play.

He was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason but missed a deadline last month to void the final three seasons of his current deal. As a result, the 49ers could trade their disgruntled receiver.

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Eagles had reached a long-term, multimillion dollar agreement with Owens, only to see the 49ers trade him to the Ravens instead.

The Ravens offered a second-round pick, while Philadelphia was only willing to deal a fifth-round choice and a receiver (either James Thrash or Billy McMullen). 49ers general manager Terry Donahue said of the decision to go with the Ravens, "Far and away, this was the best opportunity we had, and we jumped at it."

Owens said he believes the 49ers made the deal with the Ravens out of spite because the sides have had a tumultuous relationship.

"I'm just as shocked as everyone else," Owens said. "We were on the cusp of having something worked out with the Eagles and then the unfortunate happened within a matter of minutes.

"I want to go where I feel comfortable and where I can be happy. I don't want to go anywhere where someone just trades me off to. I feel like I'm entitled as a free agent to have my choice. Obviously I want to get paid, but at the same time, I want to get happy, too."

Owens' agent, David Joseph, has reportedly told league officials that Owens plans to file a grievance against the 49ers.

Spokesmen for the NFL and the NFL Players Association said no such action has taken place. An NFLPA spokesman said in an e-mail, "Once his agent failed to submit the proper paperwork in by the deadline of Feb. 21, Terrell Owens forfeited his right to become a free agent and became the property of the 49ers."

Eagles president Joe Banner said the team will not pursue any action with the league.

The Ravens, who could force Owens to play out the remaining three years of his deal (which would pay him a total of $17.7 million), have been trying to work out a new contract since the trade to avoid difficulties.

If the sides fail to reach a new agreement, Owens has two choices: He can either play under his current deal or hold out. Ravens officials confirmed that Owens' contract doesn't allow him to void any of the final three years of his deal.

Newsome said he has sensed no animosity after talking with Owens' agent yesterday.

According to Newsome, he talked with Owens before and after Thursday's trade and described the conversation as positive. "Terrell Owens said, `Baltimore has a lot of good things going on, and I look forward to being a Baltimore Raven,' " Newsome said.

Owens had a different interpretation.

"I've talked to Ozzie a few times the last couple of days," Owens said. "Honestly, I didn't really feel comfortable with our conversation. He knows I'm really not happy with the situation. I'm going to stand my ground and see if we can't get something resolved."

"This is no different than any offseason where players want to renegotiate," Billick said. "We're doing the best we can and under the best faith we can. We'd like to develop a relationship first. We'll work through this. I have every confidence he's going to be here when he needs to be here and we're going to get done what we need to get done. In the end, he will enjoy it here and will be a valued member of this team."

NOTE: Quarterback Kyle Boller underwent successful arthroscopic surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder.

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