Ravens await word on Owens

Arbiter will hear case on his free-agent request

decision expected Sunday

`I want to be in Philadelphia'

Receiver still fighting to nullify trade

Ravens confident deal will stand

March 11, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

The Ravens are expected to learn Sunday whether Terrell Owens will remain with the team.

The Pro Bowl receiver's request to be a free agent will be heard by a Philadelphia-based arbiter Saturday, a league official confirmed. A decision is to be announced the next day.

Owens is fighting to nullify last Thursday's trade to the Ravens so he can sign with the Philadelphia Eagles. He was denied from becoming a free agent last month when the NFL Management Council ruled his agent missed the deadline to have the final three years of his contract voided.

The Ravens then acquired Owens from the San Francisco 49ers for a second-round pick. He has since refused to report for a physical and has hinted at holding out if the Ravens retain his rights.

Ravens officials have remained confident that the trade will stand and that Owens will become the big-play receiver they have needed.

"Hopefully, this will bring resolution to it," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "That's why I kept at arm's length and let the player have his day in court. Hopefully, we can move past this very quickly."

Owens told The Philadelphia Inquirer on Tuesday that he likes his chances of winning the case despite most league observers predicting against it.

"I like it when the odds are against me," Owens told the Inquirer. "That's been the case all my life."

When asked why he doesn't want to come to the Ravens, Owens said, "I don't really know much about [quarterback] Kyle Boller. I don't know too much about his backup, Anthony Wright, either. We played against them last season and got blown out [44-6]. But I'm very familiar with the success of Donovan McNabb. I know what he's bringing to the table. He's a game-breaker, just like I'm a game-breaker. I don't know that about any of those guys in Baltimore. I know that about Donovan."

Owens said Newsome told him immediately after the trade that he would like the situation with the Ravens.

"And I just kept telling him, `Dude, you can't make me like anything. I know what I want, and I want to be in Philadelphia,' " Owens said.

Another issue is the length of Owens' remaining contract.

The NFL Players Association, which filed the case on Owens' behalf, contends he has two years -- and not three -- left on his contract. A source told the San Francisco Chronicle that a clause stating Owens could void after the 2005 season was removed by mistake in his contract restructuring three years ago. This matter could be moot since the Ravens are willing to restructure that deal.

Owens' dispute will be judged by Steven Burbank, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School who was selected jointly by the league and the players union last year to resolve such contract disputes.

Burbank will hear the case by conference call, and has informed the NFL he will announce the decision Sunday.

Owens' case will be argued by Richard Berthelsen, the union's general counsel and Jeffrey Kessler, their primary outside lawyer. Gregg Levy, the NFL's chief litigator, will present the league's case.

Any decision by Burbank would be subject to review by U.S. District Judge David S. Doty, who oversees the NFL's collective bargaining agreement.

NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, in Washington yesterday to appear at a Senate hearing, declined comment on the Owens matter.

Sun staff writer Christian Ewell contributed to this article.

Ravens make offers

The Ravens make contract offers to offensive tackles Orlando Brown and Ephraim Salaam, saying the first player to accept will be signed. Page 2E.

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