NFLPA wants Eagles to cut Owens

Updated: November 9, 2005, 5:33 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- The NFL Players Association wants the Philadelphia Eagles to cut Terrell Owens if they're not going to reinstate him after his four-game suspension is over.

NFLPA president's take on T.O.
Buffalo Bills safety Troy Vincent shook his head and frowned when the conversation turned to Terrell Owens' latest dispute with the Philadelphia Eagles.

As the NFL Players Association president, Vincent said it's important Owens gets a fair hearing regarding the four-game suspension imposed by the Eagles.

"You have to [defend a union member]," Vincent said Wednesday. "That's his right and that's our fiduciary responsibility to protect him, any member of our association."

But as an NFL player, fan and former Eagles player, Vincent wondered how things reached such an explosive point, the resulting publicity overshadowing any other league news.

"It's just unfortunate," he said. "I apologize to the fans and those people that support our sport because we're all affected -- all of us, myself included. ... It's just not good for our sport."

Vincent stayed away from taking sides.

"We want the best for T.O. We want the best for the franchise and ultimately what's best for the sport," he said. "Can't we just get along?"

Vincent defended Reid, saying the coach was as patient as he could be before suspending Owens.

"In my years there with him, he was a no-nonsense, basically zero-tolerance head coach," Vincent said. "It just got to a point where enough is enough."

Vincent also defended Owens, saying his string of outbursts are the result of being frustrated by the Eagles refusal to renegotiate the receiver's contract.

"No one wins in this situation," Vincent said. "At the end, maybe there's a departure, if that's the best solution, if Philadelphia wants a departure and both can go and move on."

Asked whether he would want Owens as a teammate, Vincent paused for 7 seconds before saying: "I'd take T.O. I'd take him."

-- The Associated Press

"We're not asking them to play him, we can't force them to do that," Gene Upshaw, the NFLPA's executive director, said Wednesday. "But if they're not going to let him come back to practice and do all the other things associated with that, then we want them to cut him, let him become a free agent now."

The union already has appealed the four-game suspension levied on the wide receiver by the Eagles for what coach Andy Reid called "a large number of situations that accumulated over a long period of time."

The appeal will be heard before arbitrator Richard Bloch on Nov. 18.

Under the arbitration rules, Bloch cannot make Owens a free agent but if he reinstates the receiver, as the union asks, it could force the team's hand to release him, to avoid the distraction of Owens reporting for work every day.

Financially, the union will argue that the Eagles' four-game suspension of Owens for conduct detrimental to the team was excessive and, at the most, he should miss only one game check for this past weekend's game against the Redskins.

The union source said that when the Eagles notified the NFLPA in writing on Saturday, the team simply stated the Owens was being suspended only for the Redskins game.

"You can't then go out and add three more games after the fact," a union official insisted to ESPN.

But Upshaw said that even if the suspension is upheld, the Eagles can't just tell Owens to stay away from the team and its practice facility.

"We are taking the position that's additional punishment," Upshaw told The Associated Press. "It's not fair to a player not to have an additional chance."

Upshaw differentiated between the Eagles' suspension of Owens and Tampa Bay's decision two years ago to make Keyshawn Johnson inactive for the final six games of the season. Johnson signed in 2004 with Dallas, for whom he now plays.

"There was no suspension there. A team has the right to inactivate a player for whatever reason it wants," he said. "But in T.O.'s case, this is a team suspension, not a commissioner's deal. They're different. When we bargained in those rules, there was a reason for it. The most a player can be suspended is four games. You can't go beyond that."

A key difference between the Owens and Johnson situations is that Johnson didn't ask the union to file a grievance, instead accepting his punishment -- being excused from work with pay.

Information from The Associated Press and ESPN's Chris Mortensen was used in this report.