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Jackson weighs in for T.O. (Jesse, that is...)


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After talking to Terrell Owens by phone, the civil-rights leader urged his reinstatement.

By Bob Brookover


Add the Rev. Jesse Jackson to the list of high-profile personalities who believe that Terrell Owens deserves to return to the field this season.

Jackson, in fact, became the second former presidential candidate this week to say that Owens should not be banished for the season. He put out a statement yesterday that echoed the feelings of consumer advocate Ralph Nader, who sent letters to NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie on Thursday urging the Eagles to "rescind the misguided suspension and planned inactive designation" of the wide receiver.

Unlike Nader, the civil-rights leader spoke to Owens by telephone this week and came away convinced that he was sincere in the apology he issued Tuesday from his home in Moorestown, Burlington County.

"First of all, I'm a Donovan McNabb fan," Jackson said last night in a telephone interview. "I want to get that point out there first. I thought what T.O. said was unsportsmanlike and a detriment to the team. We talked about it, and we had prayer.

"He is really remorseful about what happened, and from what I've seen, Donovan felt he was sincere in his apology, too. If T.O. had done something egregious, I could understand this penalty. But he did not do anything illegal."

Owens, of course, was suspended Monday for four games without pay by the Eagles. Coach Andy Reid said that Owens would not rejoin the team after the suspension ended.

Owens and Drew Rosenhaus, his agent, pleaded for the Eagles to reinstate the receiver Tuesday - a request the team rejected. A grievance filed by the NFL Players Association on Owens' behalf is scheduled to be heard Friday in Philadelphia. Arbitrator Richard Bloch will rule on it.

"What I find most objectionable is the extent of the punishment," Jackson said. "If the Philadelphia Eagles don't want him on the their team anymore, he should have access to the open market. Don't lock him out in the middle of his career."

Jackson said he had tried to contact Lurie and McNabb earlier this week without success.

"I don't want to choose sides in this," Jackson said. "I want to reconcile the sides."

The Eagles feel as though they are well within their rights to prevent Owens from playing this season because they plan to pay him the remainder of his salary after his suspension is over.

Owens did not take part in his weekly radio show for a South Florida station yesterday. Host Dan Le Batard said the receiver was unable to do his weekly 20-minute spot because of the pending grievance.

Owens made news in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution because he is selling his 18,000-square-foot home in Lithonia, Ga., an Atlanta suburb. The house is listed at $4,499,000.

"We put it on the market before all the latest came up," real estate agent Bill Ransom said. "It's not related to the news this week."

Owens put his home in Moorestown up for sale last month before he was suspended by the Eagles. That home is listed at $4.3 million.

Johnson on Rosenhaus. Dallas receiver Keyshawn Johnson has refused to comment on Owens' suspension, but he was more than happy to talk about Rosenhaus in an appearance on Sirius NFL Radio on Thursday night.

"He's a rat that belongs in the gutter," Johnson said. "I can smell him a mile away. That guy doesn't care about Terrell."

Smith to play. Eagles tight end L.J. Smith said he will play Monday night against the Cowboys.

"I'm good to go," he said.

Smith was upgraded from doubtful to questionable on the injury report and practiced yesterday.

Backup tight end Stephen Spach remained sidelined by a foot injury and is also listed as questionable. It appears as if his spot in the lineup will be taken by Chad Lewis.

Defensive end N.D. Kalu missed practice for the third straight day with a strained shoulder and was downgraded from questionable to doubtful. Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said Trent Cole and defensive tackle Darwin Walker will split time at right defensive end.

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