So Philadelphia Eagles management has proved to be harder of nose than the toughest Eagle of 'em all, Chuck Bednarik.
Eagles management has effectively given Terrell Owens an old-school forearm shiver right in the big mouth. The message: Shut up and play for the remaining six years on the contract you signed, pal.
As a prominent agent told me the other night: "The Eagles have all the leverage here."
Uh, think again.
If big, bad Eagles management thinks it is teaching this guy a lesson, the owner and general manager and coach haven't learned their lesson. Forcing him to play without improving his deal will be a disastrous victory. Win the battle, lose the war.
As long as Owens remains an Eagle, he's holding them hostage.
This guy will sabotage a season, without conscience or remorse. This guy is fully capable of deluding himself into believing the Eagles have treated him so unfairly that he will quit on them in selected games. This guy is the best I've ever seen at slowly ... draining ... the ... life ... out ... of ... a ... playoff ... team.
He is a destructive force to be reckoned with. He can use the media to make life miserable for his coach and his quarterback. He can use his leave-me-alone body language to make the locker room feel like a meat locker to teammates. He can be so good in practice and games -- and suddenly so terrible.
For the Eagles' organization, keeping him will be cutting off its hard nose to spite its face. The 49ers thought they could tame the beast inside Owens in 2002 and 2003 and win a Super Bowl with him. Bill Walsh, then a 49ers advisor, thought so. So did Terry Donahue, then the general manager.
Somewhere, Walsh and Donahue are saying "good luck" to the Eagles. They know all too well that T.O. will soon stand for nothing but Ticked Off.
Thursday on ESPN2's "Cold Pizza," Drew Rosenhaus, who was born to be T.O.'s agent, said it's 50-50 whether Owens will report when Eagles camp opens Monday. But, said Rosenhaus, if Owens does, "He won't be a happy camper."
Here we go.
That's why, if the Eagles were smart, they would announce right now they're open to finding poor Terrell a new home. Yes, open the phone lines to any and all trade offers and see if anyone is crazy enough to bite. Tell the NFL world: "We won't give him away, but give us your best shot -- preferably a proven receiver."
See if you can start a bidding war.
Two complications, of course: 1) You're asking for a No. 1 receiver in return for a guy who immediately wants to be paid like the No. 1 receiver in football. And 2) You would be violating what feels faintly like a form of old-school collusion among some NFL owners.
Several have made it sound as if they're committed to showing these upstarts they will not beat the system by holding out. It seems that Owens now thinks if he makes enough noise, he can create almost annual free agency for himself. Now he says he wants to team up with Michael Vick in Atlanta, where Owens makes his offseason home.
No doubt some owners are thinking: If we let him talk his way out of Philadelphia, by next year he'll want more money to play with Peyton Manning.