The Philadelphia Eagles expect wide receiver Terrell Owens to report to training camp today at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. What happens from that point on will be an intriguing case study of the importance of team chemistry in football.
Owens usually was on his best behavior last season -- at least in terms of his relationship with quarterback Donovan McNabb, his other teammates and the rest of the Eagles organization -- while helping his new club reach the Super Bowl. He was the Eagles' best player in their Super Bowl defeat to the New England Patriots even while playing with a metal plate and two screws in his right ankle, having returned early -- against his surgeon's recommendation -- from the severe sprain that could have ended his season.
But Owens seemingly can't help himself, and he has spent the offseason in a public feud with the Eagles. He and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, have asked the team to renegotiate his seven-year, nearly $49 million contract after one season. He has taken verbal jabs at McNabb's Super Bowl performance, and he has said that he wouldn't mind being traded.
But he has said that he would report to training camp today as scheduled, even while Rosenhaus sought in recent weeks to maintain his negotiating leverage by indicating that Owens might hold out or might not stay even if he does show up. Owens has plenty of incentive to report to camp. If he were to hold out, that would open up the possibility of the Eagles attempting to force him to return the bulk of the $2.3 million signing bonus he received last year.
Owens has demonstrated throughout his career that he can play -- and play exceptionally well -- with controversy swirling around him. He showed in the Super Bowl that he doesn't need a lot of preparation time to be a dominant player. But this is the Eagles' first experience with the headaches generated by Owens. Coach Andy Reid sought assurances from Owens before the team obtained him that the temperamental wideout wouldn't create locker-room problems, and now Reid faces the task of trying to ensure that any friction between Owens and McNabb or between Owens and the rest of the club doesn't ruin the Eagles' season.
The one thing Reid has going for him is that the opening of the regular season is still more than a month away, and most NFL contract squabbles usually are forgotten by the time the games that matter begin. In this case, though, there is quite a bit for everyone to try to forget.
McKenzie, Boldin Get New Deals
Two other Rosenhaus clients, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin and New Orleans Saints cornerback Mike McKenzie, got lucrative contract extensions over the weekend.
McKenzie signed a five-year, $22 million deal from the Saints that runs through the 2009 season. The deal, which replaced the two remaining seasons on McKenzie's previous contract, contains a $7 million signing bonus. The Saints agreed to rework McKenzie's contract after acquiring him from the Green Bay Packers in a trade last year.
Boldin signed a four-year, $22.67 million extension with the Cardinals through the 2010 season. The deal contains $10 million in bonuses. Boldin has two seasons remaining on his current contract with salaries totaling $830,000, meaning that he will earn $23.5 million over the next six seasons. . . .
The McKenzie signing Saturday completed an expensive three-day spending spree for Saints owner Tom Benson, who handed out $28 million in bonus money. The club completed an eight-year, $50.1 million contract extension with tailback Deuce McAllister that included $12.5 million in bonuses, and signed first-round draft choice Jammal Brown to a five-year, $11 million deal that included $8.5 million in bonuses. . . .
The Cleveland Browns are working to avoid a showdown with injured tight end Kellen Winslow. Language in Winslow's contract enables the Browns to compel him to return bonus money because he will be sidelined this season after being injured in a motorcycle accident in May. The Browns withheld a $2 million bonus payment last month.
But Browns officials and Winslow's representatives, brothers Kevin and Carl Poston, are negotiating a package of incentives that would enable Winslow to recoup any lost income after he returns to the Cleveland lineup. . . .
The New York Giants got a scare over the weekend when wideout Plaxico Burress fell awkwardly and hurt his right knee early in the club's opening practice of training camp Saturday in Albany, N.Y. But Burress suffered only a hyperextension, and resumed practicing Saturday afternoon. "It's a good example for our team," Giants Coach Tom Coughlin said Sunday in Albany.