A doctor recommended yesterday that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb undergo surgery in the near future to have his abdominal injury repaired. The procedure likely would end McNabb's season and the quarterback was mulling his decision, team officials said.
McNabb has been playing all season with a sports hernia, defined as a tearing of abdominal muscles. He was told all along that 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, however, after aggravating the injury late in the game. McNabb underwent an MRI exam Tuesday and was examined yesterday by hernia expert 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 had been ruled out of Sunday's game against the New York Giants at Giants Stadium, and Mike McMahon was named to start in his place. The Eagles are 4-5 and 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.
Meantime, arbitrator Richard Bloch is scheduled to hear arguments today on the NFL Players Association's grievance contesting the Eagles' punishment of wide receiver Terrell Owens. The hearing is to take place in Philadelphia, and Owens is to attend. It's unlikely a decision in the case will come today.
The Eagles have suspended Owens for four games without pay for conduct detrimental to the team, and have indicated 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 when the suspension ends.
"We'll put on a case that says it was excessive, that they escalated the discipline," union president Gene 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 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.
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.
Staff writer Leonard Shapiro contributed to this report.