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