A specialist recommended today that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb undergo surgery to repair his abdominal injury injury now, rather than wait until after the season. The procedure likely would end McNabb's season, and the quarterback and team officials were considering their options.
McNabb has been playing all season with a sports hernia, defined as a tearing of abdominal muscles. He was told the condition would require surgery at some point, but he had hoped to put off the operation until after the season.
He left Monday night's loss to the Dallas Cowboys with groin and abdominal soreness after aggravating the injury late in the game. McNabb underwent an MRI exam Tuesday and was examined today by hernia specialist William Meyers of Drexel University, who recommended surgery. Eagles officials previously had said that such a procedure would require a recovery period of eight to 12 weeks.
McNabb already has been ruled out of Sunday's game against the New York Giants at Giants Stadium, and Mike McMahon has been named to start in his place. The Eagles have a record of 4-5 and are in last place in the NFC East, but McNabb said earlier this week he still would like to play the rest of the season if possible.
Congress Unlikely to Pressure NFL
Ever since Major League Baseball and the players' union reached their agreement Tuesday toughening that sport's penalties for steroid use, there have been reports that Congress next might turn its attention to the NFL and the nation's other pro sports leagues, seeking to have them bolster their steroid policies as well.
Lawmakers have been quoted as saying they will take a wait-and-see approach, observing what the other leagues do before deciding whether to revive proposed legislation that would set minimum steroid penalties for all of the nation's professional sports.
In reality, however, there appears to be little appetite on Capitol Hill for going after the NFL on the steroid issue. One Congressional staff member said Wednesday it's unlikely that lawmakers will attempt to pressure the NFL into making its steroid punishments comparable to or tougher than baseball's new penalties. The public perception was that baseball -- not football -- needing fixing, and now that has been accomplished, the staffer said.
NFL Players Association chief Gene Upshaw said Tuesday that the league does not intend to change its steroid penalties, which call for a four-game suspension without pay for a first-time offender (out of a 16-game season), a six-game suspension without pay for a second-time offender and a minimum one-year suspension without pay for a third-time violator. Upshaw and NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said when they testified before Congressional committees this year they believe that, while the league's steroid program might be imperfect, it is functioning well, a belief they said they based in part on the fact that the sport has practically no repeat offenders.
Lawmakers generally praised football's efforts on steroids during the hearings while criticizing baseball's policy. Under the threat of legislative action, baseball announced Tuesday that its new penalties would be 50 games for a first positive steroid test (out of a 162-game season), 100 games for a second positive test and a lifetime suspension for a third offense.
Maddox Looking Like Starter
Quarterback Tommy Maddox took the majority of the snaps with the starting offense during the Pittsburgh Steelers' practice Wednesday, increasing the likelihood that he will the club's starter Sunday at Baltimore.
The Steelers haven't completely ruled out the possibility of having Ben Roethlisberger back in the lineup after he missed two games recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. But Roethlisberger told reporters he won't be 100 percent if he plays, and acknowledged that Coach Bill Cowher has cautioned him about rushing his return and risking a setback.
The team won its past two games with Charlie Batch starting in place of Roethlisberger, but he's sidelined by a broken hand. . . .
Ken Dorsey was named San Francisco's starting quarterback for Sunday's game at Seattle. Dorsey made one previous start this season after prized rookie Alex Smith suffered a knee injury, then hurt his ankle and gave way to Cody Pickett for two games. Now Dorsey is back, and Smith might be his backup this week. But the top overall draft pick isn't yet healthy enough to go through a full week of practices and start a game. . . .
The 49ers decided to bench left tackle Anthony Clement and moved rookie Adam Snyder into the starting lineup at that spot. . . .
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White suffered a bruised thigh in a minor auto accident this week. He missed Wednesday's practice but likely will play Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Tagliabue told reporters as the owners' meetings ended Wednesday in Kansas City, Mo., that one of the proposals being considered to help the New Orleans Saints is to give free-agent players incentives to sign with the team. Under the proposal, a player who signs with the Saints could be credited with an extra season toward his free-agent status or could receive a bonus paid from the league's fund from which performance-based incentives annually are paid to players. . . .
The league again is using the approach of awarding a Super Bowl to a city on a conditional basis, tied to a stadium issue. The owners voted Wednesday to award a future Super Bowl to Kansas City, sometime between 2012 and 2021, provided that renovations are made to Arrowhead Stadium -- including the installation of a rolling roof that could be moved back and forth on tracks between the football stadium and the Kansas City Royals' adjacent baseball facility, Kauffman Stadium. Kansas City's Super Bowl likely would come in either 2015 or 2017.
Previously, the league awarded the 2010 Super Bowl to New York, tied to the approval of a new stadium in Manhattan for the Jets. When the stadium proposal was defeated, the game was awarded to Miami instead.
Owens Hearing Friday
Arbitrator Richard Bloch is scheduled to hear arguments Friday on the union's grievance contesting the Eagles' punishment of wide receiver Terrell Owens. The hearing is to take place in Philadelphia. It's unlikely that there will be a decision Friday.
The Eagles have suspended Owens for four games without pay for conduct detrimental to the team, and have indicated that they will deactivate him for the remainder of the season once the suspension is over. The union plans to ask Bloch to force the Eagles to release Owens, enabling him to sign with another team, if they don't want to reinstate him once the suspension ends.
"We'll put on a case that says it was excessive, that they escalated the discipline," Upshaw said this week.
Owens criticized the club's front office and McNabb during a televised interview on Nov. 3, a day after reportedly getting into a locker-room scuffle with former Eagles defensive end Hugh Douglas. Two days later, the Eagles announced that Owens would be suspended for a Nov. 6 game against the Washington Redskins. On Nov. 7, Coach Andy Reid announced that Owens would not return to the team. The club was not swayed when Owens apologized during a Nov. 8 news conference at his New Jersey home and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, called for the wide receiver to be reinstated immediately.
Owens would lose about $800,000 in salary during his four-game suspension, and his contract contains a clause that might enable the Eagles to force him to return approximately $1.7 million of his $2.3 million signing bonus. The Eagles would pay him while he's deactivated.
There is a precedent for that: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers deactivated wideout Keyshawn Johnson for the final six games of the 2003 season for insubordination. The union maintains that was different because there was no suspension involved in Johnson's punishment. Under the sport's collective bargaining agreement, the maximum penalty for conduct detrimental to the team is a four-game suspension without pay.
"We take the position that it's excessive and that the discipline was increased," Upshaw said. "At first, they said he was going to be suspended for the Washington game. Then on Monday they say it's three more games. Then at the press conference they say he can't come back at all, that he'll be inactive after the suspension is served. Between Saturday and Monday, they increased the discipline, and he hadn't done anything."
Owens was involved in a bitter contract dispute with the Eagles this year, and Reid sent the receiver home from training camp for a week for misbehavior that included refusing to speak to assistant coaches or participate in an autograph session. The Eagles said after this latest punishment that the discipline was based on a series of incidents, and Upshaw said it's likely that previously undisclosed details of Owens's relationship with the team will emerge from the hearing.
Richard Berthelsen, the union's general counsel, and outside attorney Jeffrey Kessler are to argue the union's case before Bloch. Attorney Daniel Nash is to argue the league's case.