Eagles beef up stadium security for T.O.'s return

Updated: October 7, 2006, 8:15 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

PHILADELPHIA -- There will definitely be overtime here on Sunday afternoon.

And that's not a commentary or prediction on the big NFC East showdown between the visiting Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles, a game that features the return of wide receiver Terrell Owens to the city in which he played for two seasons.

Instead, it's the reality of a situation in which Eagles management will ramp up security measures, perhaps to unparalleled levels at Lincoln Financial Field, in an effort to maintain order and some degree of decorum in what figures to be a rowdy game-day crowd.

The result: Plenty of overtime paid out by the Philadelphia Police Department, as well as some private security firms, to officers who will be called in for extra duty on a weekend Eagles fans circled on their calendars months ago.

"The [extra security] will be very visible," said Eagles president Joe Banner, who did not divulge details of the plan. "We always have extra security for an NFC East game, and for a game played later in the day, and we'll go beyond that [for Sunday]. It's our responsibility to protect ourselves, the visitors and the people in attendance at the game."

But some of the security won't be visible. ESPN's Sal Paolantonio reported earlier this week that undercover police will be in the stands and on the field for the game.

The security contingent on Sunday will be doubled from its normal numbers. Banner said that none of the additional measures should delay fans from entering the stadium where the normal checks and "pat-downs" will be in effect.

Once revered in Philadelphia, and now reviled, Owens joked this week about what might await him upon his return. Eagles fans, as early as Monday night before the team's victory over Green Bay, promised that his visit will not be a pleasant one. In a parking lot across the street from Lincoln Financial Field, a group of raucous tailgaters used an old uniform jersey from Owens' tenure here to help light their grill. Some fans have suggested they plan to greet Owens' entrance onto the field with a hail of plastic prescription bottles, a reference to his accidental overdose on painkillers last week. In a stadium where cheers of "T.O.!" once rang out, some throaty locals plan to chant "O.D." instead.

The mere mention of Owens on local radio talk shows has further enflamed the partisan passions.

Eagles management, however, has worked hard this week to disseminate the message that behavior that goes overboard will not be tolerated.

"We've already got a pretty strong system, and we'll just take it up a notch," Banner said.

Any fan caught throwing something onto the field, the Eagles have cautioned, won't just be tossed from the game, but also lose their season tickets and possibly forfeit their seat license fees. And police have said that they will prosecute any fan arrested for unruly behavior.

There will be extra security behind the Dallas bench and with the Cowboys' busses as they make their way to the stadium. Beyond the extra measures being undertaken by Philadelphia management, the Cowboys are taking precautionary steps of their own. For the first time in recent memory, the team is not staying in a downtown- or airport-area hotel, but rather booked lodging at an undisclosed South New Jersey site.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider. Sal Paolantonio, who covers the NFL for ESPN, contributed to this story.

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