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Arbitrator upholds Eagles' suspension of Owens

Terrell Owens was shut down completely: his grievance, his season, his tumultuous time with the Philadelphia Eagles.

It's all over.

For conduct proven to be a ''destructive and continuing threat" to his team, an arbitrator ruled yesterday that the Eagles were justified in suspending their All-Pro receiver for four games -- and are within their rights to deactivate him for the rest of the year.

The Eagles will now look to trade or release Owens before next March, when he's due a $5 million roster bonus.

Arbitrator Richard Bloch wrote in his 38-page decision that there was ''no violation of the labor agreement inherent in the club's decision to pay Mr. Owens, but not to permit him to play or practice due to the nature of his conduct and its destructive and continuing threat to the team."

After the ruling, the Eagles released a one-paragraph statement thanking Bloch for considering the matter and saying Philadelphia is looking forward to ''moving on with our preparations for Sunday's game vs. Green Bay and the rest of the 2005 season and will have no further comment on this issue."

The players association was so incensed, however, that executive director Gene Upshaw said he would have Bloch removed from the list of approved arbitrators next month when both the union and management are given that option.

Bloch heard more than 13 hours of testimony last week. Owens's side argued the penalty is excessive and the Eagles' decision to deactivate him is too severe; he had sought to be reinstated or released so he can sign with another team.

Saints want their say

Saints receiver Joe Horn criticized Paul Tagliabue, saying some of his teammates were ''salty" because the NFL commissioner had yet to visit or address the team in person.

Horn, who has been critical of the way the NFL handled the Saints since Hurricane Katrina hit the New Orleans-area in August, made his comments on a conference call with New York media leading up to Sunday's game against the Jets.

''We haven't even seen the commissioner yet," Horn said. ''Guys right now are salty that he has sent his executive here to talk to us. I don't really personally care whether he came or not. But the other guys are [ticked] off that Mr. Tagliabue hasn't said, 'I'm going to New Orleans and I'm going to hear their frustrations, hear their pain, so at least when I leave and get back on that plane and go back to New York they will say I was man enough to come there and confront them.' That's what the players want."

Vote of confidence?

After a week of bungled attempts to clear up Herman Edwards's future with the New York Jets, team owner Woody Johnson finally made an emphatic statement.

''Herm's not leaving," Johnson said.

Johnson addressed the situation following an embarrassing week of rampant speculation that had Edwards leaving for Kansas City should Dick Vermeil retire when the season ends. Edwards fed the flames last Wednesday when he wondered about his place in the organization, then backpedaled and reiterated he wanted to stay and help the Jets (2-8) win a Super Bowl.

On Sunday, Johnson was asked to answer questions about Edwards after a 27-0 loss to Denver, but refused to talk about his coach as reporters chased after him.

Roethlisberger returns

Now that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is back, the Steelers can only hope that the rest of their offense returns with him. Roethlisberger ran the offense in practice for the first time in nearly a month after missing three consecutive games and four of six with knee injuries. He still has pain after needing right knee surgery Nov. 3, but not nearly as much as in past weeks. Roethlisberger's return comes exactly when the Steelers (7-3) need him the most, with key games against the Indianapolis Colts Monday and the Bengals (7-3) and Bears (7-3) to follow . . . Rex Grossman expects to be in uniform for the first time this season when the Bears visit the Buccaneers Sunday. The projected starter at quarterback before breaking his left ankle in the preseason, he is listed as questionable. ''Just to be able to suit up again will be a milestone for me," said Grossman, now the third-stringer behind rookie Kyle Orton and Jeff Blake . . . Cornerback Phillip Buchanon's first season with the Texans ended when he was put on injured reserve list with a high ankle sprain . . . Hall of Fame center Frank Gatski, a powerful blocker who played in 10 straight championship games for the Cleveland Browns, died of congestive heart failure Tuesday in Morgantown, W.Va. He was 83.

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