The Philadelphia Eagles are preparing to impose more serious disciplinary measures on wide receiver Terrell Owens if he is involved in another incident after he rejoins the team Wednesday.
That's why, according to NFL sources, the club sent a letter to Owens detailing his disciplinary issues in recent weeks. The team wants to be able to present the letter as evidence in an arbitration process if it disciplines Owens and he files a grievance, said one source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the dispute is at a sensitive stage. The letter was delivered Monday to Owens's home in Atlanta.
Owens was sent home from the Eagles' training camp in Bethlehem, Pa., last Wednesday by Coach Andy Reid after an argument between the two. Owens said during a series of televised interviews that Reid was upset by Owens's refusal to participate in autograph sessions for fans and to speak to the club's assistant coaches. Owens also has said he has no desire to speak to quarterback Donovan McNabb, at whom Owens directed verbal jabs during the offseason.
The Eagles and Owens remain embroiled in a bitter contract dispute, with Owens upset that the team is refusing to renegotiate his seven-year, $48.97 million deal after one season. Owens reported to training camp on time, and agent Drew Rosenhaus repeatedly has said that Owens is honoring the terms of his contract and intends to continue doing so. If Owens breaches his contract, that might enable the Eagles to force him to return the bulk of the $2.3 million signing bonus he received last year.
Eagles officials have been adamant that they won't rework Owens's contract, and they've said they don't intend to trade or release him. It appears possible, however, that the Eagles will suspend Owens if they believe he'd disrupting the team after he returns. The precedent for such a move was set in 2003, when Tampa Bay Buccaneers Coach Jon Gruden placed wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson on the inactive list late in the season for what the team called insubordination. The Buccaneers traded Johnson to Dallas following that season.
Owens is to have a salary of $3.25 million this season under the terms of his contract. . . .
The biggest problem for the Eagles is finding capable starting wideouts. They've already lost their other starting receiver, Todd Pinkston, for the entire season because of a ruptured Achilles' tendon. They got rid of Freddie Mitchell during the offseason, and their starters for Monday night's preseason opener at Pittsburgh were Greg Lewis and rookie Reggie Brown. The two have combined for 23 regular-season catches in the NFL.
McNabb's first pass of the night went straight to Steelers cornerback Willie Williams for an interception and a Pittsburgh touchdown. But McNabb steadied himself, and he and his receivers had a decent evening. McNabb completed 14 of 19 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown. Lewis and Brown totaled eight receptions for 80 yards in the Eagles' 38-31 defeat. Third receiver Billy McMullen added four catches for 59 yards.
Still, the Eagles' receiving corps doesn't seem worthy of a Super Bowl-contending club minus Pinkston and, potentially, Owens. And it's possible that the club will try to trade for a more established wideout like Green Bay's Robert Ferguson or Cleveland's Andre Davis. Meantime, the team's coaches must fix their special teams after the Eagles surrendered touchdowns Monday on a punt return and kickoff return.
Ward Deal Could Come Quickly
The Steelers and wide receiver Hines Ward hope to complete a contract extension before the regular season begins. Negotiations between the team and Ward's agent, Eugene Parker, could resume as soon as today. Ward ended his holdout Monday and reported to the Steelers. He has one season remaining on his contract for a salary of $1.67 million, and the two sides previously had been attempting to negotiate a long-term deal. Ward had a lengthy conversation Sunday night with Steelers Coach Bill Cowher after remaining in touch with veteran tailback Jerome Bettis throughout his holdout.
And Then There Were Two
Cornerback Adam (Pac-Man) Jones visited the Tennessee Titans' training facility Monday and is close to signing a five-year contract with the team. Jones, the sixth overall selection in the NFL draft in April, perhaps could sign in time to participate in today's practice. That would leave only two first-round picks unsigned -- Chicago Bears tailback Cedric Benson (the No. 4 overall choice) and Cincinnati Bengals linebacker David Pollack (No. 17). . . .
The Carolina Panthers moved rookie Thomas Davis, their first-round draft pick, from safety to linebacker. The Panthers had hoped to put Davis at safety but moved him because of a foot injury suffered by Brandon Short and fellow linebacker Chris Draft's asthma problems during training camp. . . .
Alex Barron, the St. Louis Rams' first-round selection, lined up at left tackle Monday in his first practice since signing a five-year contract with the team last week. That was a sign of Coach Mike Martz's displeasure with Barron's late arrival due to his contract dispute. The Rams have perennial Pro Bowl selection Orlando Pace at left tackle, and initially had planned to use Barron as their starting right tackle. Unless Barron progresses quickly, the Rams likely will open the regular season with Rex Tucker or Matt Willig starting at right tackle. . . .
Denver moved NFL career receiving leader Jerry Rice ahead of youngster Darius Watts as its No. 3 wideout behind Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie. . . . Broncos rookie tailback Maurice Clarett missed more practice time Monday because of a strained groin muscle. The injury has plagued Clarett for nearly two weeks, although an MRI exam taken last week revealed no serious damage. . . .
New England placed rookie linebacker Ryan Claridge, a fifth-round draft pick, on the injured reserve list because of a shoulder injury.