Eagles management is adamant that Owens will not return to the team, regardless of Friday's arbitration hearing or any settlement that might be reached, ESPN's Sal Paolantonio reported Thursday night.
Sources also told Paolantonio that there had been unsuccessful 11th-hour discussions to try to reach a financial settlement; if Owens' four-game suspension is reduced, Owens fears the Eagles will ask for $1.75 million in signing bonus money, which the team has the right to take back.
Owens and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, arrived for the hearing shortly after 9 a.m. Friday.
Head coach Andy Reid suspended Owens two weeks ago for a series of incidents that included public criticism of the organization and quarterback Donovan McNabb. Following his suspension, which is for a total of four games without pay, Owens would be deactivated for the rest of the season.
"Andy loves T.O.," Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter said in an interview that aired on ESPN2's "Cold Pizza" on Thursday. "But, you know, as a head coach, you've got so many things to worry about, the last thing you want to worry about is outside distractions other than coaching the football team."
Trotter said he felt Owens could make amends with Reid, but it would require the petulant Pro Bowler to come back with a firm understanding that he respect the coach's authority. Trotter voiced similar opinions earlier this week during a radio appearance on Philadelphia's WIP-AM.
"We would love to have T.O. back, we would love to have him back because we love what he brings to the team," Trotter said. "It would definitely make us a better team."
The arbitration hearing on Owens' grievance, originally scheduled to take place at the NovaCare Complex, was moved to Philadelphia's Airport Marriott at 9:30 a.m. ET Friday. Arbitrator Richard Bloch will hear evidence from Owens, Reid, Eagles president Joe Banner, head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder, offensive coordinator Brad Childress and former defensive end and current Eagles ambassador Hugh Douglas.
The NFL Players Association wants the Eagles to release Owens if they're not going to reinstate him after his four-game suspension is over.
"We're not asking them to play him, we can't force them to do that," Gene Upshaw, the NFLPA's executive director, said Wednesday. "But if they're not going to let him come back to practice and do all the other things associated with that, then we want them to cut him, let him become a free agent now."
Under the arbitration rules, Bloch cannot make Owens a free agent but if he reinstates the receiver, as the union asks, it could force the team's hand to release him, to avoid the distraction of Owens reporting for work every day.
Financially, the union will argue that the Eagles' four-game suspension of Owens for conduct detrimental to the team was excessive and, at the most, he should miss only one game check for the game against the Redskins.
A union source told ESPN that when the Eagles notified the NFLPA in writing of the action against Owens, the team simply stated that Owens was being suspended for the Redskins game.
"You can't then go out and add three more games after the fact," the official insisted to ESPN.
But Upshaw said that even if the suspension is upheld, the Eagles can't just tell Owens to stay away from the team and its practice facility.
"We are taking the position that's additional punishment," Upshaw told The Associated Press. "It's not fair to a player not to have an additional chance."
Upshaw differentiated between the Eagles' suspension of Owens and Tampa Bay's decision two years ago to make Keyshawn Johnson inactive for the final six games of the season. Johnson signed in 2004 with Dallas, for whom he now plays.
"There was no suspension there. A team has the right to inactivate a player for whatever reason it wants," he said. "But in T.O.'s case, this is a team suspension, not a commissioner's deal. They're different. When we bargained in those rules, there was a reason for it. The most a player can be suspended is four games. You can't go beyond that."
A key difference between the Owens and Johnson situations is that Johnson didn't ask the union to file a grievance, instead accepting his punishment -- being excused from work with pay.
Information from ESPN's Sal Paolantonio and Chris Mortensen and The Associated Press was used in this report.