For conduct proven to be a "destructive and continuing threat" to his team, an arbitrator ruled Wednesday that the Eagles were justified in suspending their All-Pro receiver for four games, and
are within their rights to deactivate him for the rest of the year.
The Eagles will now look to trade or release Owens before next
March, when he's due a $5 million roster bonus.
Arbitrator Richard Bloch wrote in his 38-page decision that
there was "no violation of the labor agreement inherent in the
club's decision to pay Mr. Owens, but not to permit him to play or
practice due to the nature of his conduct and its destructive and
continuing threat to the team."
The players' association responded by saying it intended to dismiss Bloch, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported.
"One thing I can control is that he will no longer be an arbitrator in any more of our cases," NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw told Mortensen. "Under the CBA, either side has a right between Dec. 1 and Dec. 10 to dismiss an arbitrator and we are going to dismiss this one."
After the ruling, the Eagles released a one-paragraph statement
thanking Bloch for considering the matter and saying Philadelphia is looking forward to "moving on with our preparations for Sunday's game vs. Green Bay and the rest of the 2005 season and
will have no further comment on this issue."
Bloch heard more than 13 hours of testimony last week. Owens'
side argued the penalty is excessive and the Eagles' decision to
deactivate him is too severe; he had sought to be reinstated or
released so he can sign with another team.
"We are obviously very disappointed with Arbitrator Bloch's decision," players' union general counsel Richard Berthelsen said in a statement. "His ruling ... ignores the obligation a club has
to either provide employment to a player or allow him to play
somewhere else. We are confident that we put in a winning case at the hearing last Friday, and we still believe Terrell Owens had a right to a legitimate reinstatement."
NFL head of labor relations Harold Henderson said the league was "pleased that the arbitrator has upheld the right of a club to suspend a player for conduct detrimental to the club."
Owens was suspended Nov. 5 after he again criticized quarterback
Donovan McNabb, called the organization "classless" and fought
with former teammate Hugh Douglas. Two days later, the Eagles
extended the suspension to four games and told Owens not to return.
The reigning conference champions are 0-3 without Owens and 4-6
overall, last in the NFC East. Some players, including Pro Bowl
linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, said they wanted Owens back, but coach
Andy Reid and management stuck by their decision.
"T.O. has friends on the team, so they're going to feel for
T.O. and like him," Reid said before the decision was announced.
"I expected guys to come talk to me. Jeremiah, being one of the
leaders, did that. I didn't have a problem with it."
Owens has five years remaining on a seven-year, $48.97 million
contract that he signed when he came to Philadelphia in March 2004.
His problems started when he demanded a new contract after an
outstanding season in which he caught 77 passes for 1,200 yards and
He took his first verbal shot at McNabb, suggesting the
five-time Pro Bowl quarterback was tired in the fourth quarter of
the Super Bowl loss to New England.
McNabb responded harshly and the two didn't speak for a
prolonged period in training camp. They briefly reconciled their
relationship and performed well together on the field: Owens had
47 catches for 763 yards and six TDs in seven games.
Owens earned a one-week exile from training camp after a heated
dispute with Reid that followed a shouting match with offensive
coordinator Brad Childress.
One day after the Eagles told him to go home for good, a
contrite Owens pleaded for another chance in a public apology
outside his home in Moorestown, N.J., but the team was unmoved.
Owens was set to earn base salaries of $770,000 in 2006, $5.5
million in 2007, $6.5 million in 2008, $7.5 million in 2009, and
$8.5 million in 2010.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.