Inside Slant, Battles, Quotes, Injuries, Rookies

Terrell Owens is scheduled to return to the Eagles on Wednesday after being sent home from training camp for a week by coach Andy Reid. But if the Eagles are expecting him to be any more cordial to his teammates and coaches than he was before Reid sent him packing, Owens said they are in for a surprise.

"As far as me going and changing, nothing's going to change," Owens said. Owens is unhappy because the Eagles have refused to renegotiate his one-year-old contract, which earned him $9.2 million last year and will earn him another $3.25 million this year. His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, claims the five-time Pro Bowler isn't even among the 10 highest paid wide receivers in the league.

He skipped the club's offseason minicamps and threatened not to report to training camp. He did report on time, but refused to talk to most of his teammates, including quarterback Donovan McNabb, and the Eagles coaching staff, including Reid and offensive coordinator Brad Childress.

When Childress said hello to him last week, Owens warned him not to speak to him unless he addressed him first.
Reid finally confronted Owens and the two got into an argument that resulted in Reid telling him to leave camp for a week. The ball now is in Owens' court.

"Our hope obviously is that he comes back next week and is what he can be, in every sense, in how he contributes to the team on the field and off the field. That's what we've always hoped for. That's what we still hope for," team president Joe Banner said.
Said Reid: "I'll work it out with T.O. and only T.O. This is an in-house issue."

Owens' relationship with McNabb is as bad as the one he had with his last quarterback, Jeff Garcia. He took verbal shots at McNabb during the offseason, then last week, after Reid threw him out of camp, he called McNabb a hypocrite.
McNabb said the Eagles can win this season with or without Owens.

"If he's out there, good things can happen," he said. "If he's not, you know, I think we still can win without him. And I didn't mean that in a bad way, but I'm saying that in a confident way for the guys around me."

--The Eagles are caught between a rock and a hard place with Terrell Owens. While they would love to send the self-centered wide receiver packing for good, there is real doubt at the moment whether they can legitimately contend for a Super Bowl title without him.

The Birds' No. 2 wideout, Todd Pinkston, already is history, out with a season-ending ruptured Achilles tendon. Last year's No. 3 wideout, Freddie Mitchell, was released in June.

Right now, without Owens, the club's top four wideouts are Greg Lewis, rookie Reggie Brown, Justin Jenkins and Billy McMullen. They have a total of 24 NFL career catches between them, 20 by Lewis and four by McMullen.

The Eagles are high on Brown, who is their second-round draft pick. But rookies historically have been slow to fully absorb Andy Reid's complicated version of the West Coast offense.

If Owens doesn't return, the Eagles likely will go outside to add at least one wideout. But there's little chance of them being able to swing a trade for player that comes anywhere close to Owens' talent level.

At least one Eagle, though, still is holding out hope that Owens and the Eagles can work out their problems well enough for him to play and contribute this season.

"I talk to T.O. every day," middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter said. "I talk to 5 (quarterback Donovan McNabb). We're roommates. I believe that (Owens is) going to come back and everything is going to work out."

Owens is scheduled to report back to the Eagles on Wednesday, one week after being dismissed from training camp by head coach Andy Reid after a heated argument between the two.

Owens, who had refused to talk to his teammates and coaches before the blowup, said he will take the same approach when he returns, whether the Eagles like it or not.

"As far as me going and changing, nothing's going to change," Owens warned.

CAMP CALENDAR: The Eagles broke training camp at Lehigh on Saturday. They play their first preseason game Monday night against the Steelers in Pittsburgh, then will resume two-a-day workouts at their NovaCare practice facility in south Philadelphia.

NOTES, QUOTES

It was a circus in front of Terrell Owens' Moorestown, N.J., home for two days after he was sent home from training camp by coach Andy Reid. The media descended on his house in droves. The local television stations even had their helicopters out. Owens, who had refused to talk to the media during the week he was at training camp, did an about-face and entertained the media and fans on his front lawn. He did shirtless sit ups, lifted barbells and shot a basketball around while occasionally answering questions from reporters. After two days, he flew to his offseason home in Atlanta.

"I've never seen anything like that in my life," said Owens' teammate, defensive end Jevon Kearse, who watched it all on television from training camp. "Helicopters! I was thinking back to the O.J. thing. I was laughing so hard watching it that some of the guys thought I was watching a comedy show."

--Running back Brian Westbrook's agent, Fletcher Smith, is hoping to resume negotiations with the Eagles about a new contract now that his client has returned to camp. Westbrook was a restricted free agent who signed a one-year tender offer of $1.43 million. He is seeking a long-term deal and sat out the first five days of training camp. The Eagles offered him a deal right before camp started that included a $9 million signing bonus and would have been worth $13 million over the first three years. But Westbrook turned it down.

"He isn't happy (that he doesn't have a new contract)," Smith said. "I can't mince words there. He wants to get it done."

--Veteran defensive end Hugh Douglas is no lock to make the team. The 34-year-old lineman had shoulder surgery to repair a torn tendon in February and still isn't anywhere close to 100 percent.

"Hugh's got to fight in the mix for the competition too," defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said. "He's got to show us he can still do it, and the more he shows us in preseason the more we'll put him in the rotation during the regular season. He's still coming off that injury, so he's got to prove it to us. And he knows it."

Said Douglas: "This is a young man's game, there's not question about that. But I still think I have something left in the tank, and I have something I'd like to prove. I want to prove I can still play."

--OG Shawn Andrews, the club's '04 first-round pick, is struggling to get comfortable with the offense after missing 15 games last season with a broken leg. He still is projected as the club's season-opening starting right guard. "He's got a ways to go," said offensive coordinator Brad Childress. "He's got to continue to work at it. He was in a lot of our meetings (when he was hurt), but it's way different when that stuff happens to you on the football field.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Keep my name out of your mouth. Keep my family's name out of your mouth." -- Quarterback Donovan McNabb to wide receiver Terrell Owens.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

With WR Todd Pinkston out for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon and the uncertainty over Terrell Owens, the Eagles re-signed free agent wideout Chris Samp. Samp was signed at the beginning of camp, but then released after four days.
WR Terrell Owens was given a one-week "vacation" from training camp after getting into an argument with head coach Andy Reid. He is scheduled to return Wednesday and won't make the trip to Pittsburgh for Monday's first preseason game against the Steelers.

WR Todd Pinkston was placed on injured reserve after having surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon.

DE Juqua Thomas was signed by the Eagles last week. With Jerome McDougle still recovering from his gunshot wound and Hugh Douglas struggling to recover from shoulder surgery, the Eagles are light at DE.

RB Correll Buckhalter flew down to Alabama to have his knee examined by Dr. James Andrews. Buckhalter, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, suffered what the Eagles thought was a minor knee injury on Aug. 5 when a teammate's helmet hit his knee. But when the knee still was bothering him several days later, they sent him down to see Andrews, who performed the surgery on him last year. Still no word on whether Andrews found anything more than a bruise. He will re-check the knee next week.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: James Whalen, Stephen Spach and Andy Thorn for the No. 2 TE job behind starter L.J. Smith. Offensive coordinator Brad Childress has been very impressed by the training camp play of Spach and Thorn, who both are undrafted free agents. But Whalen, who has been in the league five years, would still appear to have the inside track, though the gap has narrowed considerably.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Justin Jenkins v. Billy McMullen for the No. 3 WR job. McMullen was a third-round pick in '03. Jenkins was on the club's practice squad last year. But right now, Jenkins is outplaying McMullen ... Steve Sciullo v. Adrien Clarke for the backup G job. Clarke, who spent his rookie season on IR, has had a solid camp and is running neck and neck with Sciullo, who started five games last season.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: TEs Stephen Spach and Andy Thorn. The two rookie free agents are pushing James Whalen for the No. 2 TE job. "Those are probably as good a two free agent tight ends that we've had since I've been here," offensive coordinator Brad Childress said.

ROOKIE REPORT: Fourth-round OT Todd Herremans could wind up as the club's season-opening starting LT if Tra Thomas hasn't recovered from the blood clot in his leg by then. The original plan was to move LG Artis Hicks outside. But Herremans has held his own with the first unit in camp. ... First-round DT Mike Patterson is making the most of Corey Simon's holdout. He is a lock to be a part of the club's four-man DT rotation. ... Second-round WR Reggie Brown is struggling a little bit to pick up the West Coast offense.

INJURY REPORT: WR Todd Pinkston was placed on IR with a ruptured Achilles tendon. ... WR Reggie Brown is nursing a slightly strained groin. It's unlikely he'll play in Monday night's preseason game against the Steelers. ... RB Correll Buckhalter has been sidelined for more than a week with a knee injury. He won't play Monday against the Steelers.


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