Contract unchanged after T.O. meeting
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Unlike his parking lot basketball shots, Terrell Owens' quest for a new contract remained a giant airball.
Perhaps still stung by the Philadelphia Eagles' refusal to budge off their no-renegotiation stance, Owens again gave the media the silent treatment Tuesday after the NFC champions practiced for the first time at Lehigh University.
But he put on a little show after a practice where he caught all but one ball. He grabbed a basketball from his Chevy Avalanche and -- with his headphones on and sunglasses wrapped around his neck -- started shooting free throws and 3-pointers.
T.O knows basketball? Judging from his unofficial 7-for-9 from 3-point range, yes. T.O. knows new contract? No.
However, the All-Pro wide receiver will remain committed to staying in training camp and trying to help the Eagles win the Super Bowl, team president Joe Banner said.
Banner, Owens, Owens' agent Drew Rosenhaus and coach Andy Reid met face-to-face for the first time Tuesday to try to resolve their differences over the ongoing contract dispute.
"Our expectations would be that he's here and he's here to stay," Banner said after a brief meeting. "Things happen that you don't expect, but what was said privately and what was said in the meeting would lead us to expect he's here and committed to seeing the season through."
Owens wants to reopen his contract one season into the seven-year, $48.97 million deal he signed after coming to Philadelphia in March 2004.
"We understand his feelings, but we're glad he's here," Banner said. "We're glad he's committed to focusing on football and trying to have a good year. Our position has always been he has a contract and he needs to honor it. That continues to be our position."
Rosenhaus, speaking on his cell phone, called the meeting "productive," though he said Owens remained frustrated at the lack of progress toward a new deal.
"We're going to operate professionally and in good faith and we'll hope the team will address Terrell's concerns," he said. "Terrell is not happy with his contract. That's not going to change until we can get that worked out."
Rosenhaus said he did not ask the Eagles for permission to seek a trade.
Banner said he never considered reworking Owens' deal.
"In the long run, we would have created a situation where people wouldn't have been able to rely on us meaning what we say," Banner said.
While Owens looked fully recovered from the broken leg and severely sprained right ankle that cost him the last two games of the regular season and two more in the playoffs, the Eagles were without running back Brian Westbrook for their first practice.
Westbrook, coming off his best season and a trip to the Pro Bowl, didn't report on Monday, even though he said earlier this summer he wasn't going to hold out. Westbrook signed a one-year, $1.43 million contract in June, but wants a long-term deal.
Reid said he was surprised by Westbrook's decision and didn't know "exactly what Brian's thinking on that."
"I expect him to be here and I think it's a player's loss if he's not here," Reid said. "It gives other players opportunities to step up."
In this case, that would leave often-injured Correll Buckhalter as the No. 1 back. When Buckhalter tore the patella tendon in his right knee in a preseason game last year, it was his second season-ending knee injury in three years.
"When you put the pads on and get hit, that's the big test," Buckhalter said.
Banner said agent Fletcher Smith was in Washington D.C. on Tuesday and met with Westbrook and his family about the holdout. Banner said he was encouraged by how talks were progressing until Westbrook decided to skip camp.
"We would not have felt that they reached a roadblock," Banner said.
Also skipping practice was defensive tackle Corey Simon. He still hasn't signed a one-year, $5.13 million franchise tender and doesn't plan to report. Reid said he did not see a resolution anytime soon.
Maybe Simon can join Owens in some pickup games. Owens' basketball fling isn't surprising. After all, he wanted to play for the Sacramento Kings' summer league team but the Eagles would not give permission.
Looking relaxed in a white tank top, shorts and sneakers adorned with Michael Jordan's Nike logo and a backward Atlanta Braves cap, Owens surprised the media stragglers with a 20-minute shootaround.
He unofficially shot about 65 free throws before moving back to 3-point range and making a couple of layups, all without saying a word or showing much emotion.
Just like his contract demands, there were no slam dunks.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press