Team unlikely to go after bonus

Updated: May 3, 2005, 12:07 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

While it remains one of several options in what figures to become an increasingly acrimonious contract standoff, ESPN.com has learned the Philadelphia Eagles have not yet attempted to recover any portion of the $9.6 million signing bonus that AWOL wide receiver Terrell Owens received last year as part of his seven-year contract.


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But that doesn't mean Eagles officials won't, at some point, exercise a right that most teams agree is available to them under terms of the standard player contract and of the collective bargaining agreement.

Owens, not surprisingly, is absent from this weekend's mandatory mini-camp. Citing a "source with knowledge of the contract," the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Saturday that the Eagles have a right to recoup about $1.8 million in signing bonus money and that Owens is in breach of his contract.

But assuming that Owens signed the standard player contract -- and there is no reason to believe he did not -- the potential penalty, in general terms, is not specific only to him.

According to Section 2 of the standard league player contract: "Player will report promptly for and participate fully in club's official mandatory mini-camp(s), official preseason training camp, all club meetings and practice sessions, and all preseason, regular-season and postseason football games scheduled by the club."

There is considerable precedent for franchises seeking to recover a prorated share of a player's bonus when he is absent from a mandatory activity. The CBA also permits a team to fine a player under contract $6,000 per day for absences from such activities.

But teams frequently delay taking such punitive action because it often only escalates the level of enmity between the franchise and the player. The Eagles could exhaust a number of possibilities before making a move that would only pour gasoline on the blaze Owens has ignited. It is not known if Eagles officials have levied any fines against Owens, but league sources said Saturday night Philadelphia has not initiated any action to recover signing bonus money.

In some cases where teams have sought to recover bonus money, the conflict has gone to arbitration. Perhaps the most famous case in recent years in which a team successfully recouped a prorated share of a signing bonus was when the Detroit Lions recovered a significant portion of tailback Barry Sanders' bonus when he abruptly retired in the summer of 1999.

Owens' new agent, Drew Rosenhaus, could not be reached on Saturday night. But given his tenure in the league and his past handling of contract disputes, it's a strong likelihood that Rosenhaus apprised Owens of what actions the Eagles might take if the wide receiver did not report for mini-camp. It is just as likely that, for now at least, any steps taken by the club will not alter Owens' desire for an upgraded contract.

In an interview with ESPN.com three weeks ago, Owens strongly hinted that he would not attend this weekend's mini-camp. He has played just one season of the seven-year, $48.97 million contract signed last year after Owens was the most significant component in a three-team trade but hired Rosenhaus, in part, to seek a sweeter deal.

The boycott by Owens was certainly not a surprise to Philadelphia officials.

"If he's here, he's here," coach Andy Reid told the Philadelphia-area media. "If he's not, he's not. We have an understanding that, if you're not here, we move on without you. We have been very successful doing that, so we don't waste a lot of time worrying about those things."

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.

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