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.”

Maybe not.

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

the discussion.

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

belongs.

“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

cut.

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

him.”

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

scores.

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

catches.

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

Tennessee-Chattanooga.

“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

games.

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.

Regrets?

“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

do.”

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.