As the countdown continues to this year's training camp at Lehigh, the Daily News and Eagletarian have gone back to look at some of our favorite or most interesting events and storylines of training camps and the preseason during the Andy Reid Era. Each weekday for the next two weeks, we will count them down, leading to No. 1 today.
NO. 1: T.O. SHOW COMES TO MOORESTOWN
Published: Aug. 11, 2005
By LES BOWEN, Daily News Sports Writer
Someday, perhaps soon, we'll know which side gained an advantage yesterday, when the cold war between Terrell Owens and the Eagles heated up long enough for the team to send T.O. away from training camp for a week.
Was it Owens? Was the All-Pro wideout's icy demeanor toward some teammates and coaches calculated to convince the Eagles their best option for the coming season is to trade or release him, and rid themselves of a huge distraction?
Or was it the Eagles? Some NFL observers feel the team is now poised to wield the hammer of asking for the return of as much as $1.87 million of Owens' signing bonus, under an addendum to every contract the Eagles negotiate that states a suspension for conduct detrimental to the team can result in the team recouping a prorated portion of bonus money.
If the Eagles actually came after Owens' money, with him already extremely unhappy over their refusal to revise his 7-year, $48.97 million deal, that would make T.O. continuing to play for the team pretty much unimaginable. But perhaps the Eagles feel they can mandate less-disruptive behavior by threatening to come after the money, in the wake of what most people would consider a suspension - even if the two-sentence statement the organization issued last night didn't use the "s" word. (A source close to the situation confirmed the omission of that word was intentional, probably for reasons relating to the collective-bargaining agreement, which apparently gives Owens the right to file a grievance and be heard by an abitrator).
"Terrell was never told, 'You're suspended,' " Owens publicist Kim Etheredge said last night.
Owens' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, was in New York to tape "Late Show with David Letterman. " Rosenhaus did not return calls from the Daily News, but he told the Associated Press: "Basically, the coach [Andy Reid] told him he should take a rest and get some rehab and [Reid] would get back to him in a few days. "
It's all very murky and confusing. We know this for sure: Owens and Reid exchanged sharp words after the morning practice. The immediate cause was Owens' refusal to go to the Lehigh autograph tent with the rest of the wideouts Sunday and yesterday. But sources close to the situation said the confrontation had been building since Owens reported to camp 9 days earlier. There were several conflicts, including an interaction with offensive coordinator Brad Childress Tuesday night in which Childress greeted Owens and was told, "Don't speak to me unless I speak to you," sources said.
After yesterday's argument - which did not occur in a meeting, several sources close to the situation said, contrary to early reports - Owens was "sent home," according to the team's sparse statement. He spent the late afternoon and early evening frolicking on his Moorestown, N.J., lawn, eventually preening shirtless in front of a horde of TV, radio and newspaper reporters.
"Terrell Owens has been sent home from training camp due to undisclosed team issues," the statement said. "He is expected to return to the team on Wednesday, Aug. 17. "
Neither Reid nor team president Joe Banner could be reached for comment.
Owens was more expansive.
"I'm not going to get into the altercation, because if the truth needs to be told, then that's what I'll do. If he wants to be a man about it and have me go on the air and really tell people what happened, then I can," Owens told Comcast SportsNet's Neil Hartman, outside Owens' house. "But it was a difference of opinion. I think the report is now that I was blowing my fans off. That's not the case. The fans of Philly have been great. In training camp, they've been great. When I'm out there on the field, I'm tending to my business. They're telling me to go out there and perform and practice and that's what I've been doing. Just because I don't talk to everybody, you know, that's up to me. "
Officially, the Owens and Eagles camps expect that T.O. will be back at practice a week from yesterday, when the team convenes at the NovaCare Center for the first time this training camp, following Monday's preseason opener at Pittsburgh. The Eagles said so in their statement, and Etheredge said last night: "Yes, they asked him to return on Wednesday, and he will. "
And certainly, in the wake of Todd Pinkston's season-ending Achilles' injury, it is getting harder for the Eagles to credibly contend they will be Super Bowl contenders with or without Owens.
But unofficially, it sure seems something has to change in the dynamic of this relationship for it to continue. Reid has been proud of his team's ability to not be affected by huge distractions in recent years, but this has the potential to go way beyond anything his team has faced.
After the Comcast interview, Owens was asked in a group interview if the relationship was becoming too bitter for him to continue with the team.
"No comment," he said.
One Eagles player said last night that defensive players mostly didn't know anything about the problem when the team gathered for dinner last night. Then their cell phones started going off, with friends around the league wanting to know what had happened. The defenders sought out some teammates on offense, who filled them in, though no one had many details.
The player said he wasn't at all surprised that someone who spoke back to Reid would be sent home for a week.
"Nobody second-guesses or says anything [back] to coach Reid," the player said.
Owens' view apparently is that as long as he practices and plays hard, he'll decide how he interacts with Reid, Childress, or teammates he doesn't like or trust.
"It was just a difference of opinion," Owens said in the Comcast interview. "I was defending myself. "
Owens also said in that Comcast interview: "I think some people are kind of ticked off because I haven't really said too much, but they don't pay me to go in there and talk to everybody and be friendly to everybody. They pay me to play and they pay me to perform. So that's what I've been going in there and doing. When I haven't been outside signing autographs, it's because I've been on the inside rehabbing my groin, and that's what happened today. Not to go into further detail about the altercation, but that's the extent of it. "
Both Owens and Etheredge insisted yesterday that Owens' return from a broken fibula to play in the Super Bowl was sparked by his regard for his fans, that he meant no disrespect by not signing autographs at Lehigh.
There were reports that yesterday's flashpoint actually was the workout Owens held on a Lehigh field with assistant athletic trainer Chris Peduzzi, as Owens sat out practice with a groin strain for the fifth time in 6 days. Owens ran and pivoted and seemed very close to being healthy. He even made a joke within earshot of reporters, murmuring, "lousy quarterback" when a sideline pass from Peduzzi - a former Virginia Tech linebacker - was overthrown.
Speculation around the team held that Reid wasn't pleased to see Owens looking spry in a solo workout when he couldn't practice with the team, but a source close to the situation said the workout was not an issue.
"I've had fun at camp," Owens told Comcast. "I may not look like it at times, but like I said, it's all business with me. When I'm on the field, I perform, I practice hard, and that's what they ask of me . . . and that's what I've done.''