When Terrell Owens returned to the Eagles last August after being sent home because of his disruptive behavior, his teammates were guarded, suggesting essentially that his conduct would be judged on a day-to-day basis.

“It’s all right today,” safety Brian Dawkins, one of the team leaders, said that day. “But we don’t know what will happen in Week 5.

Well, it took until Week 9 for Owens to learn what he should have known at the start – the Philadelphia Eagles are not an organization that tolerates disruptive behavior. Despite their struggles – 4-3 and tied for last in an NFC East they have dominated for the past four seasons, the Eagles decided Saturday that they could do without the NFL’s best receiver, suspending him indefinitely for his egotistical and disruptive behavior.

Put it this way: Terrell Owens –T.O. to football fans – should be named Michael Edwards or Max Erkin or any other name with those initials. Then we could all call him M.E. because that’s what he’s all about – ME.

As Dawkins’ comments suggest, it was just a matter of time before Owens’ disruptive antics resurfaced.

The man is a time bomb, as he proved in San Francisco and proved again in the preseason- loudly seeking to redo a $49 million, seven-year contract signed a year ago; blaming Donovan McNabb for the team’s Super Bowl loss and generally making sure that training camp was all about T.O.(M.E.). Not just the Eagles’ training camp, everyone’s training camp -with the collusion of his new agent, Drew Rosenhaus, and a certain cable sports network that hung on his every action.

It was that network, ESPN – actually ESPN.com – that provided Owens with the forum that led to his suspension.

Owens, it turns out, was upset that there was no acknowledgment at Lincoln Financial Field when he caught his 100th career touchdown pass. He also agreed with Michael Irvin that the Eagles would be unbeaten with Brett Favre at quarterback instead of McNabb.

Irvin is paid by ESPN for his opinion, and that’s what it is – an opinion. We all have them.

Owens is paid (and, despite his protestations, paid well) to catch passes from McNabb or whoever might be throwing them for the Eagles.

Moreover, his premise -and Irvin’s – is silly.

Yes, Favre is a warrior. But so is McNabb, who is playing with a variety of injuries this season, including a painful sports hernia.

If Owens, or Irvin, think the Eagles need someone else in the backfield, they ought to suggest Shaun Alexander or LaDainian Tomlinson or another stud running back who can provide a ground option for a team that’s thrown the ball on almost 80 percent of its plays. And they ought to suggest that something be done to fix a defense that allowed Denver to gain 564 yards and score 49 points last week.

In truth, the Eagles took a gamble when they got Owens last year and signed him to a long-term deal after he antagonized his coaches and many of his teammates with the 49ers. He repaid their gamble by helping them get to the Super Bowl, coming back from a broken leg to catch nine passes for 122 yards in that title-game loss to New England.

Fine, Owens is a warrior on the field. No one has ever complained that he dogs it, takes plays off or does anything but play his best.

But did he ever wonder to himself why the 49ers were glad to let him go? In truth, he gave the Eagles a year without controversy then reverted to the behavior that got him run out of the Bay Area.

Did he ever wonder how the Eagles were successful before he got there? Did it have anything to do with McNabb, an MVP candidate just about every season since 2000, when the Eagles began a run of five straight playoff appearances?

Of course not.

Because everything about T.O. is really about M.E.

AP-ES-11-05-05 1702EST


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