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Crunch Time

In the end, Terrell Owens will likely accept his contract and return to the Eagles

Terrell Owens may not want to play for Philadelphia under a contract due to pay him $3.25 million this year, but before the season begins he will likely call a truce with coach Andy Reid and the Eagles, because as Owens's confidant and former teammate Freddie Mitchell tells SI, "What choice does he have? Players never win. He's going to play. He has to."

Owens is like a holed-up fugitive surrounded by every cop in the county: He's stuck in an ugly situation, and he has no appealing options. One short year after begging to get to Philadelphia, he's been such a disruptive force trying to get his seven-year, $49 million contract reworked--last week he was sent home from camp for seven days after getting into an argument with Reid--that no team would give the Eagles anything close to fair market value. Why would even a maverick like Washington owner Dan Snyder deal for Owens, with the headaches the wide receiver brings? Most teams this late in the off-season have no appreciable salary cap room anyway, and certainly not enough for the huge contract Owens wants.

In his attempts to get the team to redo his deal, Owens has used veiled threats (saying he has no desire to talk to Donovan McNabb because of what Owens perceives as a lack of support from his quarterback) and appeals for sympathy (claiming he signed a liability waiver before playing in Super Bowl XXXIX with an injured foot, though the week before the game he said there was no waiver). But the Eagles play hardball when it comes to renegotiating, and there's no way they'll relent. Even if Owens sat out the season, the team could simply move his 2005 salary to next year, with each remaining contract year pushed back a year as well.

Mitchell, now a backup Chiefs receiver, says he talks to Owens regularly. "He feels used because he's not getting his market value," Mitchell said. But as Owens is finding out, he has little choice but to live with the deal he signed. --Peter King




Owens, the ringmaster of a media circus, is running out of options.