BETHLEHEM, Pa. (AP) – Terrell Owens’ discontent with his contract, his groin injury, and his banishment from camp by coach Andy Reid has overshadowed other dilemmas for the Philadelphia Eagles.

While Owens drew attention, with his front yard bicep curls, the NFC champions have concerns that could derail another run at the Super Bowl.

Corey Simon refused to sign his franchise tender and failed to report. Brian Westbrook held out a week with his own contract dispute. Todd Pinkston was lost for the season with a torn Achilles’ tendon. Correll Buckhalter’s tricky knee is putting his season in doubt.

And Jerome McDougle was shot in the stomach by armed robbers and the date of his return is uncertain.

But no matter what else is going on in camp in this sleepy college town, everything seems to come back to Owens.

“It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure,” said defensive end Hollis Thomas. “It goes with the territory. You’re going to have some controversy here and there. You’ve got to learn how to deal with it.”

How the Eagles deal with the tempest will go a long way toward determining if they can make it back to the Super Bowl. Recent history has shown it’s difficult for Super Bowl losers to return the next season.

Since 1999, Atlanta, the New York Giants, St. Louis, Oakland and Carolina all dipped below .500 the year after losing the Super Bowl. Injuries, age and one-year wonders were all factors in the hangover.

The Eagles, with or without Owens, seem built to last.

They’ve had four straight NFC title game appearances, have been smart with the salary cap, and are so confident (some would say smug) in their system that players are plugged in and out with little dropoff.

“The question of the fire, the motivation, the discipline, it’s all there,” owner Jeffrey Lurie said. “What you can’t account for is what happened in Carolina last year.”

Last year, the Panthers lost 14 players to season-ending injuries and started 1-7.

The Eagles haven’t lost any superstars to injury, but Pinkston and Buckhalter’s absence leave the Eagles thin at wideout and running back. And they also are without kick returner J.R. Reed (nerve damage) and Pro Bowl tackle Tra Thomas (blood clot).

Westbrook wants a long-term contract and skipped the first week of camp. Simon is the team’s franchise player and has no-showed camp after he refused to sign the one-year tender.

After missing two of the last three seasons with injuries, Buckhalter’s return from a knee injury is no guarantee. No one knows when McDougle will be back.

But the T.O. Show has overshadowed everything.

Since arriving in camp, then injuring his groin, it sometimes seems as if Owens doesn’t seem to care if he ever talks to his teammates again.

“Understand that he’s a great player. He can be a great person, let’s not forget that,” says quarterback Donovan McNabb, one of the targets of Owens’ venom. “If you’re mad at everybody, hey, you have your space. When we’re on this football field, we’re working together.”

Owens arrived in camp bobbing his head to the music on his headphones, held a post-practice parking lot shootaround (again tuning out the world with those headphones), hurt his groin, and was later kicked out of camp by Reid after a heated dispute and told not the return for a week.

With a sore groin, he lifted weights and shot baskets (yup, same headphones) at his New Jersey home before ripping his coach and his QB on two separate televised interviews.

So far, the Eagles have said all the right things about winning without their best receiver. Of course, no one else is asking them about any other topic.

After taking the brunt of Owens’ criticism on two televised rants, McNabb laughed off the wide receiver. After booting Owens from camp, Reid was as stone-faced as usual while insisting the Eagles will be fine.

“They don’t allow distractions to bother them,” Reid said. “These guys are out here cranking and that’s what they’re focusing on. They’re not focusing on distractions.”

Owens also said he had an antagonistic exchange with offensive coordinator Brad Childress, telling ESPN the offending words were repeated greetings of “Hey, Terrell.”

“It’s important that you understand, if a daily hi’ is antagonistic or spiteful then I must be on the wrong planet,” Childress said Saturday. “I’ve always treated people with dignity and respect.”

Owens must talk with Reid before returning to practice Wednesday.

But he has made his case clear: He wants a new deal or he won’t be happy. The Eagles won’t budge off their hardline stance: T.O. can play for the Eagles or he won’t play at all.

“The train’s going to keep moving, but any time you take away a talent like that, it’s going to affect you some,” linebacker Jeremiah Trotter said.

How much, no one knows.


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