What one Philadelphia Eagles team official described as "our little traveling circus" came to FedEx Field last night without marquee attraction Terrell Owens. The suspended Pro Bowl wide receiver was not in the building, and the Eagles' offense struggled most of the night trying to compensate for his absence.
A Philadelphia team that already offered little semblance of a running game going into last night's game continued to struggle on the ground, with only 45 rushing yards against a swarming Washington defense. And with little big-play capability in their passing game, the Eagles saw their seven-game winning streak against the Redskins, dating from 2001, go thump in the night in a 17-10 loss.
Owens was suspended indefinitely Saturday by Eagles Coach Andy Reid for conduct detrimental to the organization. In addition to an interview with ESPN that aired Thursday night in which he was critical of quarterback Donovan McNabb and complained that the team had not publicized the 100th scoring reception of his 10-year career, Owens also was involved in a midweek training room altercation with former Pro Bowl defensive lineman Hugh Douglas.
Asked about Owens after the game last night, Reid would only say, "I'm not even going to get into that." Asked when he would address the subject again, he glared at his questioner and said, "When I want to."
Said McNabb: "Obviously, it's tough losing a guy of his caliber, of his ability, but we might be better off. We're 4-4, not 1-7. It's important for the guys in the locker room to understand we win together and we lose together."
Other teammates said afterward that they would have preferred to have had Owens in the lineup, but understood why he was not there.
Running back Brian Westbrook, the DeMatha graduate who came to an agreement this weekend on a new five-year, $25 million deal, said: "It has to be a team, not one person and 52 others. . . . We have to embrace T.O. and hope he embraces us. T.O. is a playmaker. He helps us out a whole lot and tonight he wasn't there for us. We're at our best as a team when we're focused as a team, not on one person."
Said wide receiver Greg Lewis: "It's our job not to worry about other things. We're not out there looking for sympathy. We're all men here. We're ready to take responsibility. We have to go with what we have here. I don't feel embarrassed. Everyone has been watching us from Day One and they've just been waiting for something to happen so they can scrutinize us even more. . . . You have to worry about what you can control. Each man has to do what they have to do."
Eagles sources confirmed before the game that Douglas, who retired earlier this season and is now working in the team's front office, exchanged words with Owens in the training room Wednesday and that both men threw several punches, none of which landed, before they were separated by several other players. Owens reportedly went into the locker room afterward and challenged anyone who was talking behind his back to take him on.
Douglas, who also had an angry training camp confrontation with Owens, confirmed that the incident occurred on an Eagles pregame radio show last night, though he did not offer any details. "It's not something you're proud of, so why should I glorify it?" he said.
Owens was listed last night on the game-day inactive list, but a team spokesman said he was definitely suspended without pay for the game by Reid. Owens earns $3.5 million a season, and the suspension cost him a game check of about $205,000, though NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw had said Saturday the union is likely to challenge the suspension.
Before the game, Eagles team president Joe Banner said that Reid will decide the length of the suspension later this week and would not comment when asked whether Owens would ever play for the Eagles again. Owens also has been trying to get the Eagles to renegotiate the seven-year, $49 million contract he signed when he joined the team in March 2004.
"Andy will basically figure out where we go from here," Banner said. "He indicated to Terrell Owens that he'd talk to him later this week and give him a more definitive status report. . . . There's an accumulation of events culminating with a series of things last week, including a very public interview that [Owens] did. I think there's a long list of things, some of which you know about and some of which aren't public."
Owens's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told Philadelphia television station WSVN that, "we're going to have to see what the Eagles decide. Everything is very much up in the air right now. The Eagles have said they'll think about it. They're going to make some determination as to what their plans are. Right now, this is indefinite."
Owens was replaced in the starting lineup last night by rookie receiver Reggie Brown, a second-round draft pick from the University of Georgia. Brown distinguished himself in the first quarter, turning a 15-yard intermediate catch into a 56-yard touchdown reception for a 7-0 Philadelphia lead with 2:55 remaining in the period, his first career score. For the night, he had five receptions for 94 yards, also a career best.
"We weren't even thinking about T.O.," said defensive lineman N.D. Kalu, a former Redskin. "We're out there trying to take care of business. We're professionals. We're not going to get caught up in the media hysteria about one person. When he's here, we welcome him, and we love him. When he's not, we try to roll without him."