Terrell Owens rejoined the Philadelphia Eagles here today after meeting with Coach Andy Reid, who had banished the disgruntled wide receiver from the team for a week.
Owens participated in the club's morning practice at its South Philadelphia training facility, with about two dozen fans -- some of them brandishing anti-Owens signs -- gathered outside the gate and a plane circling overhead with a banner, sponsored by a local radio station, that read: "T.O. Must Go."
Owens refused to answer questions from reporters as he sat at his locker after the practice, wearing headphones and putting on the same camouflage shirt that he'd sported when he reported to the Eagles' training camp in Bethlehem, Pa., 16 days ago. Reid said he'd met with Owens, who arrived at the facility about 90 minutes before the 8:45 a.m. practice, for a few minutes, and declined to reveal specifics of their conversation.
"It was a good meeting," said Reid, who added later: "He was out there practicing and practicing well. He did a nice job. . . . He was fine today."
Owens caught plenty of passes from quarterback Donovan McNabb during the two-hour practice but there was little, if any, on-field interaction between the two. Owens moved past McNabb without speaking as the Eagles players left the field following the practice.
Linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, who has remained in touch with Owens throughout the dispute, said he expected nothing to change in Owens's behavior, with the possible exception of a conversation with McNabb at some point. Wideout Greg Lewis said that Owens spoke to him today, teasing him about running a wrong route in Monday night's loss at Pittsburgh in the preseason opener, but that was no different than Owens had acted toward the team's other receivers before his clash with Reid and one-week absence.
Said cornerback Sheldon Brown, who suffered a cut on his left shin after being accidentally kicked by Owens during the practice: "He didn't alienate every player. He did talk to some teammates. We all have to drop our egos, period, and become a unit. He has to put his trust in management that they'll do the right thing in the long run. Only he can decide that. Everyone in here has a job to do."
Reid sent Owens home after the two argued last Wednesday at the Eagles' camp at Lehigh University. Reid was upset that Owens, among other things, had refused to participate in two autograph sessions for fans and wasn't talking to the club's assistant coaches.
The four-time Pro Bowl wideout remains embroiled in a bitter contract dispute with the Eagles, who have refused to renegotiate his seven-year, $48.97 million deal after one season. Owens said during a series of interviews last week that would return with the same attitude.
That's not what the Eagles wanted. The wanted to see a contrite Owens who's ready to try harder to fit in with his team. And if that doesn't end up being the case, they apparently are prepared to discipline Owens further. They set the stage for that over the weekend by sending a letter to Owens, which arrived at his house in Atlanta on Monday, chronicling his recent disciplinary issues. That letter could end up being submitted to an arbitrator if the Eagles suspend Owens and he files a grievance. The precedent the Eagles could follow was set in 2003, when Tampa Bay Buccaneers Coach Jon Gruden made wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson inactive late in the season because of what the team called insubordination.
Owens returned to his in-season home in Moorestown, N.J., Tuesday night, and declined to speak to reporters. Agent Drew Rosenhaus accompanied him. But Rosenhaus did not participate in today's meeting involving Owens and Reid.
The Eagles were scheduled to practice again this afternoon. They lost to the Steelers, 38-31, Monday. McNabb had his first pass of the exhibition season intercepted and returned for a touchdown, but the Eagles emerged happy with the performances of Lewis and fellow wideouts Reggie Brown and Billy McMullen. Still, they would be a far less imposing team without Owens, and they seem intent upon doing everything they can to attempt to make things work with him before resorting to further sanctions.
Brady's Inactivity Raises Some Eyebrows
Tom Brady's irregular work schedule this preseason has produced speculation that the New England Patriots' three-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback might be suffering from a sore arm. The Patriots have denied that, saying they merely are trying to keep Brady fresh while getting work for their other quarterbacks -- Doug Flutie, Rohan Davey and rookie Matt Cassel. Brady is scheduled to start Thursday night's game at home against the New Orleans Saints after sitting out the Patriots' exhibition opener Friday at Cincinnati. . . .
New York Jets quarterback Chad Pennington is penciled in to make his preseason debut Friday night against the Minnesota Vikings at Giants Stadium. Pennington, who is working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery, has had a lightened practice workload during training camp and sat out the Jets' opening exhibition game. Now, though, the Jets' plan is to have him take on a normal workload -- by preseason standards--in the final weeks leading up to the regular season. . . .
Rosenhaus spoke to Tennessee Titans officials this week to try to convince them to consider trading another of his clients, quarterback Billy Volek, if the right offer comes along. Volek has gone back to being Steve McNair's backup after demonstrating while McNair was hurt for much of last season that he can put up big numbers as a starter. . . . .
Titans rookie cornerback Adam (Pac-Man) Jones has a tentative contract agreement in place, but the final details weren't worked out in time for him to sign the five-year deal and practice Tuesday. Coach Jeff Fisher ruled out Jones playing in Friday's contest at Atlanta, a game that Jones badly wanted to play because it's in his hometown. He was the sixth overall selection in the NFL draft in April. . . .
Dallas quarterback Drew Bledsoe underwent an MRI exam Tuesday on a foot injury, but Cowboys officials said the test showed no serious injury. . . .
Vikings cornerback Fred Smoot has been plagued by a sore right knee for much of training camp, but an MRI exam revealed only a bruise. He left the Washington Redskins to sign with Minnesota as a free agent this past offseason.