In arbitration, Owens sent on out pattern

Receiver's case against Eagles doesn't fly

Ravens & NFL

November 24, 2005|By KEN MURRAY | KEN MURRAY,SUN REPORTER

It ended without so much as a whimper from the discharged Terrell Owens or a wail of relief from the Philadelphia Eagles.

Once the bitter confrontation between the Pro Bowl wide receiver and the NFC champions finally ended yesterday on an arbitrator's opinion, it was hard to find a winner.

Unless you consider the NFL the ultimate beneficiary in this sordid ordeal.

When arbitrator Richard Bloch upheld the Eagles' four-game suspension of Owens and said they were justified in sending him home for the rest of the season, it strengthened the league's disciplinary system.

Owens, guilty of insubordination, delivered on his preseason promise of mayhem with the Eagles. He had a shouting match with coach Andy Reid, dressed down offensive coordinator Brad Childress, wrestled with unofficial team ambassador Hugh Douglas and criticized quarterback Donovan McNabb.

All because the Eagles did not acquiesce to his - and agent Drew Rosenhaus' - demand for an upgraded contract. Minus that raise, Owens went on a season-long rant that reached its boiling point in an ESPN interview Nov. 3, when he lambasted the team for not honoring his 100th career touchdown catch and ridiculed McNabb one more time.

The Eagles asked him for a public apology. When Owens issued only a weak one, they suspended him for conduct detrimental to the team. Not even a heartfelt apology was good enough after that.

Rosenhaus and Owens had tried to back the Eagles into a corner and failed.

Their grievance, filed by the NFL Players Association, said the punishment was excessive and sought reinstatement.

After listening to more than 13 hours of testimony in Philadelphia on Friday, Bloch wrote the team "has shouldered its burden of proof of clear and convincing evidence of player misconduct in that the four-week suspension was for just cause."

He also exonerated the Eagles for their decision to pay Owens for the final five weeks of the season but not allow him in the facility "due to the nature of the player's conduct and its destructive and continuing threat to the team."

The decision effectively closed the door on Owens' options and greatly reduced the chance a similar strategy on the part of other players would be used in the future. This was a precedent-setting verdict that re-established a team's control over the behavior of its players.

Now, players unhappy with their contract or their team will not be able to follow the Owens blueprint as a means of escaping or gaining a new contract.

To the NFL, this was a significant victory.

"We are pleased that the arbitrator has upheld the right of a club to suspend a player for conduct detrimental to the club," said Harold Henderson, the NFL's executive vice president for labor relations, in a statement.

The Eagles issued a statement thanking Bloch for "his respect and understanding of the importance of the particular issues at hand," and said they would have no further comment.

The NFLPA, meanwhile, went on the attack after the decision was announced. Gene Upshaw, executive director of the union, said he would have Bloch removed from the list of approved arbitrators next month when the union and management are given that option.

"He piled on," Upshaw told the Associated Press. "He went beyond what we have in the agreement. When I have an arbitrator go beyond the agreement, I have no choice. Clearly, when you look at this case, his decision even went beyond what the Eagles said in their legal briefs."

Bloch twice served as an arbitrator for Major League Baseball, as recently as 1999.

Having removed Owens from the NFL for the rest of the season, the Eagles will either trade or release him before March, when he is scheduled to receive a $5 million roster bonus.

ken.murray@baltsun.com

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Today's games

FALCONS (6-4) @LIONS (4-6)

TIME, TV -- 12:30 p.m., chs. 45, 5

LINE -- Falcons by 3

SKINNY -- After losing two in a row at home, the Falcons are trying to avoid becoming the turkey for Detroit's Thanksgiving Day feast. Their playoff spot is in jeopardy and the pressure will be on Michael Vick to bail them out. The Lions won't say which quarterback will start - Joey Harrington or Jeff Garcia - although it probably doesn't matter.

PICK -- Falcons

BRONCOS (8-2) @COWBOYS (7-3)

TIME, TV -- 4:15 p.m., chs. 13, 9

LINE -- Broncos by 2 1/2

SKINNY -- The Broncos have thrived with a two-man running game, but Tatum Bell is hurt and may be limited. If he can't go, Mike Anderson must carry the load against the Cowboys' No. 9 run defense. The Cowboys may have a bigger problem running against Denver's No. 2 run defense.

PICK -- Cowboys

Ken Murray

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