Owens: I'll abide by ruling on trade

Pro Bowl receiver will end his protest if union fails to nullify deal to Ravens

Pro Football

March 08, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

If the NFL Players Association fails to get his trade rescinded, Pro Bowl receiver Terrell Owens said he would end his protest and play for the Ravens.

An NFL spokesman confirmed that Gene Upshaw, executive director of the players union, spoke yesterday with Harold Henderson, the league's executive vice president for labor relations, of his intention to try to void Thursday's deal that sent Owens from the San Francisco 49ers. There has been no resolution on that matter, the spokesman added.

But the Ravens, who dealt a second-round pick in exchange for Owens, are confident the trade will not be overturned after talking with league officials. According to a league source, the union's efforts have little chance of succeeding since it will concede that Owens' agent made a mistake by failing to file the paperwork in time to make him an unrestricted free agent.

Ravens officials indicated yesterday that there are no plans to void the trade if Owens doesn't appear for a physical today and that they still expect him to play for the team this season despite his recent complaints.

For the first time since being dealt, Owens accepted that possibility.

"I'm going to fight it to the end until I can't fight it anymore," Owens said in an interview yesterday with WCAU-TV, the NBC affiliate in Philadelphia. "This is not to disrespect the Ravens organization by any means. I just want a fair shot at my free agency.

"If it comes down to the point where I can't win, I'll be a Raven."

Owens, 30, has repeatedly voiced his desire to play for the Philadelphia Eagles instead of the Ravens, saying on Friday, "I'm not going to Baltimore and act like I'm happy to be there when I'm not."

But unlike previous interviews, he didn't seem as determined to end up in Philadelphia.

When asked yesterday what jersey he would be wearing on opening day, he told WCAU-TV: "I don't know. I'm really not sure at this point. I can picture [myself in the Eagles' uniform], but at the same time, I can still picture me being in a Ravens uniform as well.

"I can't deny the fact they have a great thing going on in that organization, especially on the defensive side of the ball where Ray [Lewis] leads that team. Right now, they're saying Kyle Boller is the starting quarterback. I haven't even seen the guy play but I hear he has a strong arm."

The Boller-to-Owens connection is one that has been envisioned by the Ravens since last week's trade. And players union attempts to void the deal hasn't changed their outlook.

"Based on the communication with the league and the union, we're working under the assumption that the 49ers were within their rights [to trade Owens]," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "We're really just a bystander right now and we'll go along with whatever they determine."

Said general manger Ozzie Newsome in a statement: "We made a trade with the 49ers for Terrell Owens that was approved by the NFL. We have a valid contract with Terrell Owens."

The Ravens would have the right to cut their ties with Owens this week.

Owens said he doesn't plan to report for today's physical after learning of the attempts to help him become a free agent. Because the trade is contingent on him passing a physical, the Ravens can either void the trade or waive that provision.

The most likely scenario is the Ravens' forgoing the physical.

"If we're comfortable enough after talking with [the 49ers'] doctors - which I believe we are - we can waive the physical," Billick said. "But we have to wait for the league and the union to declare their position. Once they officially say, `Look this is a trade and it's a done,' then the next step is for us is the physical by which we can waive right now. If he is of a mind that he won't come report for a physical, we can waive that and he's our property."

If the matter can't be resolved with the NFL Management Council, Upshaw is expected to ask Stephen Burbank, who is in charge of settling disputes regarding the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, to have Owens' contract voided so he can be declared a free agent.

Owens was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent before missing a deadline last month to void the final three seasons of his current deal.

Less than two weeks later, Owens believed he reached a long-term deal to set up being traded to the Eagles only to be dealt to the Ravens instead. The 49ers decided to go with the Ravens because they presented a better offer than Philadelphia (reportedly a fifth-round pick and receiver James Thrash).

If the union succeeds in undoing the trade, the Ravens would get back their second-round pick (51st overall). If the trade is upheld, Owens has three choices: play under his current contract (which will pay him $5.3 million this season), re-negotiate a new deal with the Ravens, or sit out the season (but the Ravens retain his rights).

"If it was a case where I would have to be there [with the Ravens], then I'll be there," Owens told WCAU-TV. "At the same time, I want to fight for my right to exercise the option in my contract."

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