Consider it an alarm bell when your last defender, flamboyant ex-NFL receiver Michael Irvin, says you've gone over the line. At long last, talented but boorish wide receiver Terrell Owens has outpaced most of his staunchest allies with antics more appropriate for professional wrestling than for any team sport. The antics have led to an indefinite suspension by the team of Mr. Owens, who only last year fought through a leg injury to help the Eagles in the Super Bowl.
Even Mr. Irvin-a player-turned-broadcaster known more for his outrageous style than television substance-said on an NFL pre-game show Mr. Owens had gone too far, that receivers must respect their quarterbacks. Instead of respecting his quarterback, Donovan McNabb, Mr. Owens prefers to belittle him, calling him an Uncle Tom.
Exactly what has Mr. Owens done to warrant an indefinite suspension from the struggling Philadelphia Eagles?
In April the wide receiver hired agent Drew Rosenhaus, saying he wasn't happy with his contract one year after signing it. He told CNBC he needed more than the $7.5 million he was slated to take home in 2005 to "feed his family."
After intimating he might hold out from training camp, Mr. Owens showed up to Eagles practice refusing to talk with the press and quickly landed in a heated exchange with coach Andy Reid, netting him a one-week suspension.
In a Nov. 3 interview on ESPN, Mr. Owens claimed the Eagles organization lacked class because it didn't celebrate his 100th career touchdown reception. He also claimed Philadelphia would be undefeated with Packers quarterback Brett Favre at the helm-an indirect shot at Eagles signal caller Mr. McNabb.
Told he must apologize to the organization, the team, and Mr. McNabb, Mr. Owens chose to apologize to the organization, but refused to make amends with his teammates and specifically his quarterback.
The same day he was suspended, Mr. Owens got in a fistfight with former Eagles defensive end Hugh Douglas in the team's training facility. After the tussle (in which no punches apparently met their target), Mr. Owens steamed into the Philadelphia locker room, issuing a general fight challenge to each of his Eagles teammates.
After the fight, Mr. Reid announced Mr. Owens would never be allowed to play for the Eagles again because of "a large number of situations that accumulated over a long period of time." The move will only cost Mr. Owens $800,000 in salary, but Philadelphia's decision to shut him down will cost the receiver perhaps what he holds most dear: attention.
On a third-and-five play on Nov. 6, the New York Jets looked to veteran receiver Wayne Chrebet for a big play. And Mr. Chrebet delivered, making six yards, but in the process absorbing a fierce blow when his head struck the Meadowlands turf. The result: a loss of consciousness and the Jets receiver's ninth concussion in his college and pro career.
Now his teammates-even the ancient Vinny Testaverde-are hinting that Mr. Chrebet should hang up his cleats. "Not speaking for Wayne, but sometimes you come to the realization yourself that, 'It's time. I've had a great career, nothing wrong with hanging it up, walking away. Nothing to be ashamed of, you have a lot to be proud of. Life goes on,'" Mr. Testaverde said. "That's what we all want, we want life to continue. We want to be functional, be able to watch our kids grow and play with them.
Quitting football isn't easy. It took multiple concussions before Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman called it quits. The Jets put Mr. Chrebet on the injured reserve list in 2003 after he suffered from post-concussion syndrome. Last October, Mr. Chrebet, who has a wife and two boys, talked about playing football as a player with a history of concussions: "I'm aware of it, but it's not going to affect the way I play. I only know how to play one way, and if I can't play that way, then I'll be done." Sadly, the latest concussion may have made the decision for him.