SportsProf

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Friday, August 11, 2006

That Gagging Sound You Hear

results from USA Today's on Terrell Owens, published in today's paper. The gist of the article is that two weeks have passed without any nonsense from the 11th-year wide receiver. No conflicts with Jerry Jones, Bill Parcells or Drew Bledsoe. You read it and decide, but at least as far as the Cowboys are concerned, USA Today should be called USA Toady, at least today. Yes, if you believe it, they're singing "Kumbaya" and locking arms around the campfire in the Big D.

The article glosses over the fact that T.O. has said that he probably won't play until the regular season starts, that he has a hamstring injury (even though an MRI was negative) and that he brought in his own training team to help him recover from his injury. Could this be a case that T.O. is just doing all that he can to heal quickly, or is it that he's showing the same prima donna tendencies that he displayed with the 49ers and the Eagles, both of which led to disasters for those teams? And why can't people own up to the fact that it isn't Dallas, its history or the reputation of Parcells that, if it happens, will cause Owens' good behavior but rather the fact that if he acts out and poisons one more team, he is through? That to many is Owens' primary motivator.

This drama will play itself out, but as with second and third marriages, this is a triumph right now of hope over experience. There's no doubt about T.O.'s talent and his accomplishments, but at 32 he's closer to the end of his career than the beginning, so it's hard to see how he can undergo a personality makeover. Rather, what this guy needs is a personality bypass operation. It says here that l'affaire hamstring is a harbinger of problems that are likely to emerge if a) Bill Parcells tries to run the ball more, b) Jason Witten and Terry Glenn become preferred targets or c) Bledsoe makes one mistake too many in a game. Oh yeah, and what if T.O. says that another quarterback -- even the football geriatric Brett Favre -- would be better than Bledsoe?

I am amazed that so many people have been so quick either to come to Owens' defense or to give him a pass and say they'd take a chance on him, the most recent one being John Madden. Yes, you can't deny the talent, but you can question the chemistry. Football especially relies on chemistry and leadership, and Owens is a potential wrench thrown into the engine of any team. Then again, perhaps each Hall of Fame coach thinks that he too can change anyone and make a winner out of everyone. That said, most of those great coaches say that one of the things they learned early on in their careers is that you can't change people fundamentally and that you shouldn't try.

Yes, all is hunky-dory in Dallas, the same way it was when T.O. first joined the Eagles a few years ago.

It's what they call a honeymoon phase.

And it will end soon enough.

Lots of people are writing off the Eagles again this year, but to do so overlooks a few basic facts: 1) 13 players, including several key ones, were on the IL last year, 2) injuries were bad for the DL and OL, and you need the earthmovers to control the line of scrimmage and win the game -- both are significantly deeper this year, 3) Andy Reid's track record, and 4) Donovan McNabb's health. Yes, there are questions about health and size at RB, quality at WR, and ability at LB, but every team has question marks. The Eagles have to prove that last season was an aberration, and they look like they are on a mission to do so.

Meanwhile, Dallas has bet a lot on Terrell Owens. To quote Mike Ditka, "if you buy a rattlesnake for a pet, the odds are it's going to bite you someday." Bill Parcells knows that all too well. If all goes well with Owens, the Cowboys could be a very good team. But if Mount Owens erupts and spews lava all over that glorious franchise, Cowboy Nation will shake their heads and wonder why ownership trusted the situation in the first place.

There's calculated risk-taking, and there's speculation. After T.O.'s track record in San Francisco and Philadelphia, having him on your roster is a speculative play.

Kind of like taking your salary, going to Vegas, and putting it on red.

So before people in Dallas get drunk on the great receiver the home team signed, they should sober up and look at the track record.

And then get out their lucky charms.

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