T.O.’s 1,000th catch opens Hall of Fame discussion
For all of Terrell Owens’ self-promoting bluster, highlight reel
catches and eye-popping numbers, the one topic that doesn’t
interest the Bills receiver is whether he will one day land in the
Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“Dude,” T.O. likes to say, “that’s not what I play for.”
Now that Owens achieved a significant milestone in his 14th NFL
season by becoming the sixth player to reach 1,000 catches in a
31-3 loss at Atlanta on Sunday, it’s as good a time as any to start
And like anything regarding Owens, who’s built a reputation for
being prolific on the field and prone to drama off it, there is
some debate over whether he’ll be enshrined in Canton, Ohio, any
time soon after completing the mandatory five-year waiting period
following his retirement.
Hall of fame defensive back Ronnie Lott thinks Owens
“He’s done some of the things that hall of famers have done,”
Lott said, referring to Owens’ statistics, consistency and ability
to perform in the clutch. Lott particularly noted T.O.’s 122 yards
receiving while coming off ankle surgery in Philadelphia’s loss to
New England in the 2005 Super Bowl.
“He’s made those kinds of sacrifices, and he’s done that over a
body of work,” Lott said. “And when you do something like that
for that long, you’ve got to believe that his game and his play on
the field has been spectacular.”
Hall of fame coach Marv Levy took a more neutral stand.
“You know he’s going to be discussed,” Levy said. “So, 1,000.
I congratulate the guy. It’s quite an accomplishment. I’ll leave
that part up to the hall of fame voters.”
It’s nothing against Owens, the former Bills coach said. Levy
has made it his priority to lobby voters to first consider
inducting former Bills receiver Andre Reed.
And that’s the problem when it comes to discussing which
receivers belong, and in what order they should be enshrined.
Though Jerry Rice is regarded by both Lott and Levy as a slam
dunk to be a first-ballot inductee in February, there are numerous
receivers – such as Reed and Cris Carter – who continue to miss the
Even Lott will draw the line on whether Owens will be inducted
sooner than later.
“That’s a tough one,” Lott said. “You’ve got guys that came
before him. Everybody would have thought that played against them
that they would be first-ballot hall of famers, so you’ve got to
put that in the mix.”
At least one voter, Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star
Telegram, believes there’s no argument that Owens’ numbers are
worthy of consideration.
“What I think voters are going to hold against him is the fact
that he never won a championship,” Williams wrote in an e-mail.
“He had the chance in Philadelphia, and his comeback in the Super
Bowl was heroic. But even then the Eagles couldn’t win.”
Williams then added that she would “have no problem presenting
Owens is climbing the charts in numerous categories. He sits
fourth with 14,886 yards receiving, 49 shy of passing Tim Brown.
He’s third with 143 touchdowns receiving and fifth with 146 total
If he plays two more seasons, as Owens says he intends to do,
it’s likely that he could end up competing with New England’s Randy
Moss to finish second behind Rice in yards receiving and
Owens refuses to look that far ahead while noting that landing
in Canton has never been his objective since being drafted in the
third round by San Francisco in 1996 as a relative unknown out of
“A lot of people didn’t really expect me to do much at all,”
Owens said. “I came from a class of receivers where maybe 10 or 11
went before me, and some of them are out of the league now. So I
feel I’ve had a successful career.”
This hasn’t been anywhere near the best of seasons for Owens,
who signed a one-year contract with Buffalo in March shortly after
being released by Dallas. He has 51 catches for 764 yards and five
touchdowns, including one rushing. With one game left against
Indianapolis on Sunday, Owens is in jeopardy of finishing with his
third-lowest output in any year in which he started 10 or more
At 36, Owens disagrees with critics who say he has lost a step.
Though he acknowledges he hasn’t performed to his standards, Owens
notes that the Bills offense has been undone by a rash injuries
that have affected a young offensive line, plus a revolving door at
quarterback and the upheaval of coordinator Turk Schonert’s
dismissal in September.
“I just feel bad because I’m a competitor and I came here to
help this team to the playoffs,” Owens said. “It’s been
frustrating. There have been times I just wanted to scream at the
top of my lungs. But, you know, that wouldn’t be the right thing go
Chalk that up as a moral victory for T.O.
“I think that’s part of me growing and maturing along the
way,” Owens said.