Ravens say Owens hasn't alienated them

OWINGS MILLS – Disgruntled All-Pro wide receiver Terrell Owens hasn't relented in his verbal assault of his trade to the Baltimore Ravens.

While the players' union sent Owens' case before an arbitrator in a bid to grant him free-agent status and rescind his trade from the San Francisco 49ers, Owens reiterated to a Philadelphia Inquirer columnist that he doesn't want to play for the Ravens.

Owens described himself as disappointed and furious that he wasn't traded to the Eagles. The four-time Pro Bowl selection has been openly defiant ever since Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome swapped the Ravens' second-round draft pick for him.

"I was so distraught," Owens said. "Like I told Ozzie: Why would you want somebody that doesn't want you? It's crazy. I told him I don't want to be in Baltimore. I want to be in Philadelphia.

"I don't want to definitely say that I'd hold out. But I want to emphasize I want to be in Philly so bad, that holding out is actually on my mind."

Meanwhile, the Ravens reiterated Tuesday that they view the dispute as an issue between the league and the union.

"Until we have a chance to get Terrell here, things with Terrell are in the before stage," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "We are still in the before stage right now. We will let the league and union do their business.

"I don't think with a great deal of confidence that this is going to resolve itself. Until he gets here and has a chance to interact with Ozzie, myself and this organization, and has a chance to go forward as a legitimate Baltimore Raven, I think anything that precedes that precedes it."

Owens was prevented from becoming a free agent when the NFL management council ruled that his agent, Dave Joseph, failed to void the remaining three years of his contract by a Feb. 21 deadline.

Now, the case will go before special master Stephen B. Burbank, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School who settles contract disputes under the collective bargaining agreement. This is his first case.

Owens apparently hasn't alienated the Ravens, although their fan base has expressed anger toward Owens on talk shows and Internet message boards.

"I would love to have him," Ravens kicker Matt Stover said. "I understand your concerns, but as a player on the team, I speak on our behalf and we want a guy like that on our team."

When Owens failed to file the request to void the contract, it was believed he had three seasons left for $17.7 million in base salary, including $5.3 million this season.

However, Gene Upshaw, the union's executive director, said he believes there are two years left on Owens' deal.

"That was a mistake by the 49ers," Upshaw told the Associated Press. "There are just two years remaining and we think we have a good case for voiding them."

Owens admitted that his willingness to go across the middle decreased last season because of former 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia.

"My game, my route-running changed -- because of Jeff Garcia. I'll openly admit that," said Owens, who added that he tried to avoid injuries on pass patterns. "But I still ran my routes hard. I've never been afraid to go over the middle. This is the only year they've said I've short-armed some passes. I wonder why?

"But what could I do. That's what I had to deal with. I tried to lobby to put Tim Rattay in there, but it didn't work. Garcia is what I had to work with." 

Along with the Indianapolis Colts' Marvin Harrison, Owens is the only player to total more than 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns over the past four years.

"I know that this team will welcome him because I know that he's a game-changing athlete," Stover said. "When it's all said and done with the NFL and our union, I hope that winds up in our favor and we can go on."

NOTE: Stover also weighed in on Ravens running back Jamal Lewis' recent arrest for federal drug conspiracy charges. Lewis has pleaded not guilty to charges that, if convicted, could trigger a sentence of 10 years to life in prison.

"I respect Jamal and I want him back as a player," Stover said. "I am behind him 100 percent. I told Jacob, my son, ‘You back him, too, because he is a good person.'"
Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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