Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb will undergo surgery for his abdominal injury by next week and is expected to miss the remainder of the season, Coach Andy Reid said yesterday.
As the Eagles and the other parties in the Terrell Owens case awaited a decision by arbitrator Richard Bloch that is to come by tomorrow, things continued to unravel for the defending NFC champions as they acknowledged that McNabb won't be able to postpone the surgery until after the season, as he had hoped.
But first, the Eagles will have to deal with a verdict in the Owens case. Bloch, who oversaw Friday's 14-hour hearing at a Philadelphia airport hotel, informed the parties in the case yesterday that he will issue his ruling by noon tomorrow. The NFL Players Association filed a grievance contesting the Eagles' decision to suspend Owens for four games without pay for conduct detrimental to the team, and union officials said in recent days they're hopeful that the suspension will be reduced.
McNabb managed to play more than half the season with a sports hernia, a tearing of the abdominal muscles, until aggravating the injury late in a Monday night loss to the Dallas Cowboys eight days ago. He sat out Sunday's loss to the New York Giants at Giants Stadium and was told by two doctors to undergo surgery sooner rather than later.
"He's had two opinions, and both opinions said he needed the surgery," Reid said during a news conference at the Eagles' training facility. "There's just too much discomfort to where Donovan can't run and function. We're to that point."
Reid indicated that Mike McMahon, who started Sunday's game in place of McNabb, will remain the starting quarterback this week.
Cornerback Lito Sheppard also will miss the rest of the season after suffering a severe ankle sprain against the Giants that will require surgery, Reid said. The Eagles (4-6) appear well on their way to becoming the fifth straight Super Bowl loser to follow up with a losing season, and their run of four straight NFC East titles seemingly is about to end. But Reid said his team won't give up.
"The season is not over," he said. "There's a lot of season to play."
The Eagles also have indicated that they would deactivate the receiver for the rest of the season after his suspension ends. The union contends that would be excessive punishment in violation of the sport's collective bargaining agreement, which sets a four-game suspension without pay as the maximum punishment for conduct detrimental to the team. It's not clear whether Bloch will address the threatened deactivation in this ruling, raising the possibility that the union would file another grievance if that issue remains in dispute after this case is resolved.
Richard Berthelsen, the union's general counsel who was one of the lawyers to argue Owens's case before Bloch, said the union is seeking to have Owens reinstated to full playing status with the Eagles. The team, at that point, could release Owens, but that would leave him free to sign with another club and play the remainder of the season.
"The typical remedy for suspension is reinstatement, and that means reinstatement to the status he had before," Berthelsen said.
Owens would lose about $800,000 of his $3.25 million salary for this season if the four-game suspension stands. A clause in his contract also could enable the Eagles to attempt to recoup about $1.7 million in signing-bonus money from him.