NFL

Owens washed up and looking for work

Terrell Owens (Getty Images)
Terrell Owens had his lowest amount of TD receptions (5) in '09 in a near decade.
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Mark Kriegel

Mark Kriegel is the national columnist for FOXSports.com. He is the author of two New York Times best sellers, Namath: A Biography and Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich, which Sports Illustrated called "the best sports biography of the year."

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He saunters into a Lakers game — another sun-glassed, demi-celeb — just late enough to be seen. Then, only days after claiming to be the victim of an ESPN conspiracy, he shows up at — where else? — the ESPYS.

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Out here in Los Angeles, you can’t help but notice him. I mean, that’s the point, isn’t it?

He’s Terrell Owens. He hasn’t changed. But the world around him has. Problem is, the years have rendered him oblivious to his own obsolescence. This isn’t merely another guy who doesn’t get it. This is a reality star (albeit a second tier one) who doesn’t live in reality.

Owens once had the physical gifts to compete with the man he replaced, arguably the greatest player ever, Jerry Rice. He was fast and strong and possessed of the crazy courage required to do great things at the receiver position. With a ball in the air, Owens focused only on his own glory, not the impending hit. Even at 36, he’s still built like a civic monument.

But to what? If he’d been a better guy, his current status — unemployed with no prospects — would qualify as a great shame. At this point in his career, Terrell Owens should have a collection of rings and records. Instead — and here’s the reality — he’s well on the road to being Flavor Flav.

Perhaps I’m to be faulted for writing this despite having recently missed the second season debut of “The T.O. Show.” It recounts the now familiar story of his departure from Buffalo, where he went to rehab his image and collect an easy $6 million. I’ll make a better effort to see the second episode, as his website synopsizes it thusly:

“As Terrell settles into his new Los Angeles digs, his faltering relationship with Kari drives him into therapy. Mo and Kita are also working to build relationships and they invite Terrell’s ex fiancé Felisha out to lunch. In another first, Terrell hosts a princess party for two of his daughters, who’ve never met before.”

The preceding paragraph should yield several inarguable conclusions regarding the state of American culture: the death of irony, the death of satire, and the spiritual poverty that afflicts the television audience. As for Owens himself, it’s clear he’s a has-been.

The protagonists of most reality shows (I hesitate to use the word “star”) can no longer do what made them famous in the first place. With little left to sell, they pimp out what passes for intimacies. T.O. isn’t an exception. He’s just deluded.

Consider what he just told a New England radio station, that he’d “definitely be open” to playing for the Patriots.

Isn’t that big of him? You think he knew New England already signed 34-year-old Torry Holt?

POLL

  • What are Terrell Owens' chances to play for another NFL team?
    • Good; someone will want his services
    • Bad; no one will want that headache
    • Zero; his career is over

“I’m like LeBron,” he said.

Never mind that LeBron James is 11 years his junior, he’s also the most-hated athlete in America. Apparently no one on T.O.’s staff forwarded him the memo.

“I can go there and take less of a role, take less money and put everything aside and make it work,” he said.

Less money? Again, reality: no one’s offered him any money.

Then he brags to the Associated Press that, unlike some of the league’s “golden boys” — Michael Vick and Ben Roethlisberger come first to mind — he has never been disciplined for off-field issues. “I’ve never been in any trouble,” he said. “… I try to make the right choices and judgments when I’m out in public.”

Got that? He wants to be properly appreciated for his non-felonious behavior.

In the meantime, he’s blaming, who else? The bane of all crazy people — the media!

“It’s not like I can’t play,” he said. “There is some type of influence that they’re making in the minds of teams and owners and GMs.”

Knowing exactly how little influence I have over NFL general managers, I got one on the phone Thursday.

“He’s begging everyone,” the personnel man told me. “I thought he was done last year. This year, I don’t think anybody wants anything to do with him. The only option is an injury, or two, or maybe a handful of injuries.”

In other words, your receiving corps has to be a MASH unit before you’d turn to T.O.

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As this is the NFL, the issue has little to do with character. After all, Roethlisberger and Vick (at least for now) still have jobs. It has to do with Owens’ decline as a football player. It was all he could do to catch 55 balls for 829 yards last season with the Bills. Those numbers, combined with his age, translate into new cost-benefit analysis. He’s not worth the trouble anymore.

None of the four teams he’s played for will have him back. The Redskins don’t want him, as he’s had problems with Donovan McNabb. The Chiefs don’t want him, as he had a beef with head coach Todd Haley when they were in Dallas. The Vikings don’t want him, as he had a beef with head coach Brad Childress when they were in Philly. Again, the Patriots signed Torry Holt. The Bengals signed Antonio Bryant. Even the Chargers, who lost Vincent Jackson, have shown absolutely no interest in Owens.

Do I really need to go on?

Not really, said the GM. “This conversation is two years old.”

My point exactly. It’s no coincidence “The T.O. Show” is now in its second season.

Tagged: Bills, Patriots, Steelers, Torry Holt, Terrell Owens

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