Injuries and off-field distractions have turned the Philadelphia Eagles from a leading Super Bowl contender to a team on the verge of falling completely out of the playoff race.
Now that they’ve turned the page on Terrell Owens, the defending NFC champions will look to end a four-game losing streak when they host the Green Bay Packers.
An arbitrator ruled Wednesday that the Eagles were justified in suspending Owens for four games—and are within their rights to deactivate him for the rest of the year for conduct proven to be a “destructive and continuing threat” to the team.
Philadelphia will now look to trade or release the All-Pro receiver before next March, when he’s due a $5 million roster bonus.
After the ruling, the Eagles released a one-paragraph statement thanking arbitrator Richard 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.”
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 14 touchdowns.
He took his first verbal shots at Donovan McNabb, suggesting the five-time Pro Bowl quarterback was tired in the fourth quarter of the Eagles’ 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 as Owens had 47 catches for 763 yards and six TDs in seven games this season.
With Owens, Philadelphia was 4-3 and in the playoff chase. Since he was removed from the roster, the Eagles are 0-3 and are averaging only 15.6 points per game.
Owens’ situation has been only one of several problems for the Eagles, who will be without McNabb and All-Pro cornerback Lito Sheppard for the rest of the season after both were placed on injured reserve Tuesday. Left tackle Tra Thomas, another Pro Bowler, joined that list Friday. He will undergo disc surgery after battling back problems for most of the season.
This season hasn’t been any better for Green Bay, which lost seven of its first eight games and is coming off a 20-17, last-second loss to Minnesota on Monday.
The defeat means the Packers likely will have a losing season for the first time since Brett Favre took over as the team’s starting quarterback in 1992, a 13-year run that’s the longest in the league.
They have to win out to avoid snapping that run, an unlikely task with two games left against first-place Chicago and another with NFC West-leading Seattle.
Favre finished Monday’s loss 20-for-33 for 227 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He declined to speak to the media following the game, a rarity for the 14-year veteran.
“This one may be the worst because No. 1, it was Minnesota, No. 2, it was at home, and No. 3, it was Minnesota again, so it’s very bitter,” defensive end Aaron Kampman said.