NFLPA files grievance on behalf of Owens

WASHINGTON (Ticker) - Terrell Owens and the Philadelphia Eagles are headed toward another grievance hearing.

The NFL Players Association on Tuesday filed a grievance against the Eagles on behalf of Owens, the talented but troublesome wide receiver.

The NFLPA is challenging the Eagles’ refusal to pay Owens’ salary for the balance of the season and their refusal to let the banished star compete for a position on the club’s roster.

On November 23, arbitrator Richard Bloch upheld the team’s four-game suspension of Owens for conduct detrimental to the team, adding that the Eagles had the right to keep Owens on the inactive list for the remainder of the season. His suspension ended last week and he was restored to the 53-man roster.

“The Eagles told Terrell, the arbitrator, and the media that Terrell would be paid for the balance of this year when he returned from suspension, and now they are instead witholding his pay,” NFLPA general counsel Richard Berthelsen said in a statement. “We therefore filed this grievance both for his protection and that of players generally, who deserve to have their CBA and contracts enforced as written.”

Owens’ suspension without pay cost him $764,706 of his $3.25 million base salary for this season. He was owed $955,882 over the final five games.

The Eagles reportedly informed Owens that he must repay $1.725 million of the $2.3 million signing bonus he received in March 2004. The team had the right to withhold his salary for the remainder of the season if he failed to repay the bonus.

The latest grievance asserts the Eagles are breaching the collective bargaining agreement maximum discipline provisions by offsetting Owens’ salary with claimed reimbursement of signing bonus monies, since such action constitues “double discipline” based upon his prior suspension.

There also are assertions that the Eagles’ banishment of Owens for the balance of the season is a breach of the standard provision in Owens’ contract, which requires the club to “employ a skilled football player.”

The grievance seeks monetary damages for Owens, including salary improperly withheld and any incentives or performance-based pay he is losing as a result of not being allowed to play for the remainder of the season.

In the original grievance hearing in November that lasted nearly 14 hours, Eagles coach Andy Reid cited 11 incidents in which Owens’ conduct was detrimental to the team.

It was enough to convince Bloch - who had a reputation for reducing punishments of players - that this suspension was warranted.

However, Reid made it clear that Owens would not be allowed to return to the team after the suspension was over. Bloch’s ruling also justified Reid’s permanent banishment of Owens, stating the Eagles had the right to keep Owens away from the practice facility following the suspension.

The NFLPA was upset with Bloch’s decision, claiming Owens “had a right to a legitimate reinstatement.”

Owens is in the second year of a seven-year, $48.97 million contract but will never suit up for the Eagles again. They will release him before a $5 million roster bonus is due in March.

Owens became a major distraction to the Eagles after he hired agent Drew Rosenhaus in the offseason to renegotiate a contract, which was not among the NFL’s top 10 highest-paid receivers. He was kicked out of practice in training week for a week by Reid due to disruptive behavior.

Owens apologized for his latest transgressions - criticisms of quarterback Donovan McNabb and the organization in an interview - and wanted to return to the Eagles. But Reid refused to take him back, citing an “accumulation” of incidents.

Despite being regarded as one of the NFL’s best wideouts, Owens clearly hurt his market value with his petulant behavior.

Along with verbally attacking McNabb on three occasions and criticizing the organization, Owens also reportedly was involved in a locker room fight with Hugh Douglas, the team’s community relations director.

Just over nine months removed from the Super Bowl, the Eagles are 5-7 and in last place in the NFC East. They are 1-4 since suspending Owens, who had 47 catches for 763 yards and six touchdowns in seven games this season.

Last season, Owens had 77 catches for 1,200 yards and a franchise-record 14 receiving touchdowns before severely injuring his ankle against Dallas.

After missing the final two regular-season games and two playoff games, he made a courageous return and had nine catches for 122 yards in a 24-21 loss to New England in Super Bowl XXXIX.

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Updated Tuesday, Dec 6, 2005