Sun, Nov 20, 2005 - Page 23 News List

Owens may soon be back on the field

AP , PHILADELPHIA

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens acknowledges the media as he arrives for his arbitration hearing in Philadelphia on Friday.

PHOTO: AP

Terrell Owens might be closer to returning to the field this season, even though the Philadelphia Eagles still don't want him back.

Arbitrator Richard Bloch did not issue a ruling after the 13-hour arbitration hearing Friday.

Richard Berthelssen, general counsel of the NFL Players' Association, said a decision is expected by Tuesday and expressed optimism that Owens would not have to sit out the remainder of the season.

The dismissed Owens -- who did not speak with reporters after leaving the hearing -- is seeking reinstatement.

"This discipline did not meet the legal standards of the collective bargaining agreement," said attorney Jeffrey Kessler, representing the union.

"He wants to play for Philadelphia," Kessler said. "He doesn't have any problem with his teammates, the organization or the fans. He never expected this to be the result."

Berthelssen said that the hearing started at 9:30am with three hours of opening arguments from the players' association, followed by eight hours of team testimony, and another two hours from the players' association general counsel.

The All-Pro wideout was suspended on Nov. 5 following a series of incidents in which he again criticized quarterback Donovan McNabb, called the organization "classless" and fought with former teammate Hugh Douglas, who serves as team "ambassador."

Two days later, the Eagles extended the suspension to four games and told Owens not to return to the team. Owens is losing more than US$200,000 per game from his US$3.5 million salary. He would be paid for the games he doesn't play if the Eagles deactivate him as planned once the suspension is up.

The players' association wants Philadelphia to release Owens if he's not going to be reinstated after the four-game suspension is over. Lawyers for the players' union argued Owens' punishment for conduct detrimental to the team was excessive and the suspension should be reduced.

The Eagles insist the suspension is justified, and also could be seeking to reclaim about US$1.8 million of the US$9 million signing bonus they gave Owens last year because they believe the petulant receiver violated his contract terms when he failed to show up at a mandatory post-draft camp in the spring.

Kessler said the Eagles have not made an attempt to reclaim that money -- and if they did, that would require another hearing.

Philadelphia most likely would make a decision on Owens -- either releasing or trading him -- by next March, when he is due to receive a US$5 million roster bonus.

Owens arrived for the hearing with his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, shortly after 9am Friday morning. Eagles coach Andy Reid showed up about 4 hours later following the team's practice. Team president Joe Banner, offensive coordinator Brad Childress, head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder, and Douglas also were expected to testify, though it's not known if all did.

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, US$48.97 million deal he signed when he came to Philadelphia in March 2004.

The Eagles refused to redo the deal and Owens has clashed with management since. He earned a one-week exile from training camp after a heated dispute with Reid that followed a shouting match with Childress.

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