Free-agent receiver Terrell Owens, who has been waiting three months exactly for an opportunity to sign with his next team, visited the set of NFL Network’s Total Access on Friday night for an interview with host Rich Eisen.
NFL.com has posted the compelling 10-minute session for quick and easy consumption.
“I think why I’m not on a team is not because I can’t play. It’s based off character issues, and I think that’s where the situation lies and I don’t think it’s fair,” Owens said, explaining earlier that he’s regarded as a “cancer” by some. “As far as me being able to produce and perform on the football field, I can do that. That’s not a question. You ask any of my coaches from last year on that team, you ask even some of the coaches from the Dallas Cowboys, they’ll tell you. You can ask some of the players. It’s not that. The scenario now is based on my character more than the performance on the football field.”
So Eisen asked in response: Are these concerns baseless?
“With some of the situations that have happened in the past, there’s always two sides to a story,” Owens said. “With those instances and situations that may be brought up, yeah, I can try to defend myself ’til the cows come home. Again, me trying to defend myself against the media about the perception of myself is like shooting a ghost. I’m not gonna win that battle. But I’ve always been confident in who I am and what I stand for.”
Then came the closest Owens likely ever will come to apologizing for his past words and actions.
“Those things that have arisen or whatever, they happened,” Owens said. “There’s some things that I wish I could have differently, there’s some things I wish I could have said differently. But nothing that I regret.”
Hey, an internally inconsistent expression of regret is better than no internally inconsistent expression of regret at all.
“Those are the things that happened with football,” Owens said. “I’m not a criminal, I’m not any of that. But I know that the things I do on a football field, they speak for themselves. Again, some of those things in the past, they’re in the past. We’re all in this world that say, ‘Put the past behind us and move forward.’ How can I do that?”
He sort of has a point. Last year, Owens behaved in Buffalo, even if his ultimate motivation arose from spiting the media. And Owens specifically pointed out that Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick recently said good things about T.O. to Clark Judge of CBSSports.com. So if Owens has learned from his mistakes — or even if he’s simply determined to keep himself out of controversy so that the media has no further ammunition against him — the guy seems to be different now.
Moreover, and as a Hall of Fame voter pointed out to us on an anonymous basis for a recent SportingNews.com item, an argument can be made that Randy Moss has been more disruptive and problematic in his career than Owens, and that T.O. has been perceived as a problem only because none of his teams protected him in the way that, for example, the 49ers protected Jerry Rice, who’d be whisked out of the locker room when P.R. folks perceived that Rice was ready to blow his stack in front of cameras and microphones.
Owens also continues to downplay reports of his salary expectations, explaining that his requests are “negotiable.” He claims that he doesn’t insist on going in as the No. 1 wideout. At one point, he suggested that he wasn’t the top guy in Buffalo last year, but he had 55 catches for 829 yards while Lee Evans had 44 receptions for 612.
It remains to be seen where Owens lands. He missed extended time last year in training camp after suffering a toe injury in the Hall of Fame game, so there’s evidence that his body may be breaking down a bit.
As we see it, the character concerns aren’t keeping him out. It’s the combination of his reputation, his potential for disruption, his aging body, and his inherent need to be paid at a certain level so that he feels as if he’s being properly respected. If he’d take a minimum-salary deal, he’d have a choice of four or five teams today.
In the end, his best bet would be to work out a contract with low base pay and a series of additional payments based on performance.
Then again, given his history, Owens could slip out of his acting debut as Eddie Haskell if he believes he’s not getting enough opportunities to earn more money.