Owens Stills Holding Out Strong

By Rick Sarlat
Updated: June 13, 2005

PHILADELPHIA—Terrell Owens has always worked well as his own spin doctor. Whether it’s justifying his gratuitous on-field behavior or, most recently, his contract dispute, he always seems to garner some level of understanding.

And although his recent tearful commentary on his holdout with the Philadelphia Eagles may not have shed any significant light, it may have humanized him a bit.

“Before there was football, there was my family,” An emotional Owens told reporters at his charity bowling event in Atlanta. “It doesn’t really matter what anybody says to me critically, whether it’s coaches, the media, teammates or the people I thought were my friends. It doesn’t really matter because I can leave this game right now and they won’t care about me.”

“I don’t have to play for the Eagles,” he continued. “Anybody that I play for, I’m going to play 100 percent. I gave San Francisco 100 percent, I gave the Eagles 100 percent. When I got hurt, I rehabbed 100 percent. They know the situation, so just give me what I deserve…I’m one of the top players in the game. That’s all Iask. I’m not trying to break the bank. Just give me what I deserve. If they don’t want to do that, that’s fine.”

As his holdout, the crux of which is the feeling that the seven-year $49 million deal he signed in March of 2004 isn’t indicative of the player he is, nears its critical stage, neither side is budging. Coach and general manager Andy Reid has reportedly said that the Eagles’ front office remains steadfast in its refusal to structure a new deal for the all-pro receiver. Reid also said he believes the organization has built a system in which all of the players are interchangeable, even Owens.

“I’ve said this before,” Reid said. “Would we like to have T.O.? Sure we’d like to have him. Can we plug somebody else in there and still win Super Bowls? Yeah, absolutely we feel that way.”

Both sides are not without merit. Owens’ 2004 regular season numbers alone might be ample defense. The 31-year-old missed the last two regular season games after breaking his ankle against Dalls, but still managed 77 receptions for 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns on the season. Then factor in his heroic Super Bowl performance just seven weeks removed from serious injury, and there exists a strong case for why Owens deserves a salary like Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison, the highest paid receiver in the league.

Conversely, although it is impossible to project what kind of production he might be capable of in the next six years, Owens’ age and recent injury could be a harbinger of sorts. Moreover, when comparing his numbers with Harrison’s over the last nine years, Owens falls more than a tad short in every category except touchdowns. In that time period, Harrison has reached 845 receptions, 11,185 yards and 98 touchdowns to Owens’ 669 receptions, 9,772 yards and 95 touchdowns.

There are also other considerations, all of which cater to T.O.’s predilection for controversy. There are the ugly sideline dramas where his intermittent lack of respect for teammates and coaches is only surpassed by his frequent acts of maniacal self-promotion.

And there’s that ability of his to turn on people with the flick of a switch. People that, by all appearances, are among his closest friends. It was a little less than one year ago that Owens and Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb looked to be forming that sacred bond between QB and receiver that typically transcends the football field. Now the two are slamming each other in the media. Although neither has mentioned the other’s name, their statements have clearly been directed at each other. Around the time news of T.O.’s holdout first surfaced, he took an unsolicited poke at McNabb, saying, “I’m not the guy who got tired in the Super Bowl.”

For his part, McNabb has approached the T.O. controversy with a little more caution. At first, that is. His initial comments regarding Owens were fairly innocuous. “With T.O. we can do a lot of great things,” McNabb said. “Without him, I still think we can do a lot of good things.” After he apparently got wind of T.O.’s comments, his position was far less reticent. “Just keep my name out of your mouth,” McNabb cautioned T.O. through the press after the first day of mini-camp. “Don’t try to throw names or guys under the bus to better yourself.”

For those of us who saw this coming, nothing is sweeter than being right, whether it’s calling the outcome of a game, a season, or pegging a player for what he is and always will be. One would be hard-pressed to genuinely give T.O. the benefit of the doubt, to assume that the greater good of the team could actually precede the greater good of T.O. And for all it’s worth, the day that T.O. strode into town last year wearing a full-length fur coat and looking like an exotic sports car, the promise of Super Bowl glory was strutting right by his side. Unfortunately, so was the promise of discord