One of the star players in the National Football League, wide receiver Terrell Owens, is the talk of the sports world in the United States because of conduct that could cost him millions of dollars after being suspended by the Philadelphia Eagles.
Terrell Owens has been in trouble before for his antics on the field and his tantrums off the field, but this time his behavior was deemed too much for Philadelphia Eagles management to tolerate. His sharp criticisms of his own team last week earned him the maximum four-game suspension without pay, and he was told by Philadelphia that he would then be placed on the inactive list for the rest of the season.
Seeing his career and millions of dollars at stake, Owens publicly apologized Tuesday to his teammates, his coach, and the team's fans in the hope of being restored to the Eagles' lineup. "The mentality that I have, my greatest strength, can sometimes be my greatest weakness. I am a fighter. I always have been and I always will be. I fight for what I think is right. In doing so, I alienated a lot of my fans and my teammates," he said.
Owens' suspension, unless he wins an appeal, would cost the controversial receiver more than $823,000, as well as any chance to make the Pro Bowl all-star game or earn other on-the-field incentives. And it appears Philadelphia does not want him back ever, even though he is only in the second year of a seven-year, $49 million contract. The contract is not guaranteed.
Eagles Coach Andy Reid suspended Owens after the receiver had told ESPN.com last week that his team would have won more games if it had Green Bay's Brett Favre at quarterback. The receiver also made it known he was upset that the Eagles had not stopped an October 23 game to acknowledge his 100th career touchdown reception.
Owens was later also involved in a brawl with the team's former Pro Bowl defensive end Hugh Douglas in the Philadelphia clubhouse.
Despite posting impressive numbers on the field, including 47 catches for 763 yards and six touchdowns this season, Owens' recent behavior was too much for Coach Reid to tolerate, and he handed down the suspension. "This decision is a result of a large number of situations that accumulated over a long period of time, during which Terrell had been warned repeatedly about the consequences of his actions. Even with the activities that took place last week, we gave Terrell every opportunity to avoid this outcome," he said.
Owens did not play in the Eagles' 17-10 loss on Sunday to the Washington Redskins. After that loss, Eagles' quarterback Donovan McNabb said that the absence of Owens hurt, but the atmosphere had improved in the locker room. "It is tough losing a guy of his caliber. But I think we might be better off. Nothing against him and his attitude, but when you get out there in the stands and on the football field, it is about playing together," he said.
McNabb and Owens had helped lead Philadelphia into the Super Bowl in February against the eventual champion New England Patriots, but their relationship had deteriorated in recent months.
Terrell Owens fired his longtime agent David Joseph, hired Drew Rosenhaus and had demanded a new contract just one season into the huge seven-year, $49 million deal he signed when he came to the Eagles in March 2004.
The receiver held out of Philadelphia's mandatory passing camp in April, then boycotted a voluntary minicamp in May. When he did report to training camp, Owens ignored several teammates, including McNabb, and refused to attend autograph signings with other receivers.
Owens was also involved in a confrontation with Eagles offensive coordinator Brad Childress. When Reid confronted Owens, the receiver lashed out at the coach, which triggered a shouting match that ended with Owens sent home for a week.
The latest outbursts by Owens and his failure to fully apologize last week led to his dismissal once again, though this one appears permanent.
Owens' agent Drew Rosenhaus said that the player is hoping to get back in the lineup, and is truly sorry for his comments. "He is here to make sure, on the record, that people realize that he is sorry, he wants to play football, he is a great person. I believe in him, there are a lot of his teammates that believe in him. He needs to be playing."
The NFL Players' Union has said it would appeal the suspension, and an arbitrator is expected to rule on the matter later this month. Philadelphia has four wins and four losses this season and has games against the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers in the next three weeks. If he loses his appeal, Terrell Owens would sit out those games without pay and then be reinstated to the team. But the Eagles say they will place him on their inactive list, meaning he will then be paid but will not take the field.
Despite his on the field heroics, many observers believe that Owens has worn out his welcome in Philadelphia and will be playing for another team next season, if another NFL team wants him.