Upon hearing that Terrell Owens has signed with an outfit called the Allen (Texas) Wranglers, many people might initially feel pity. There's a certain amount of sympathy in seeing an all-time NFL great scuffling to continue his career in the Indoor Football League.
Then again, if he's really going to be paid up to $500,000 and receive an ownership stake, you really can't blame him. Especially since he appears to have serious money problems, due largely to the four paternity suits he's facing.
Even the judge considering a reduction of Owens' child-support payments noted that returning to big-time football looked unlikely. "His NFL career seems to be over," Judge Marc Marmaro said earlier this month in Los Angeles County Superior Court. "I mean no disrespect."
The end seemed obvious when Owens held a workout in October, trying to convince the NFL that he was fully recovered from knee surgery. The session was televised, but not a single team showed up. Agent Drew Rosenhaus brushed it off. "Just because they weren't there doesn't mean they weren't interested," Rosenhaus said. "I can guarantee that all 32 teams were interested."
Yeah, right. Rosenhaus' false bravado was as bad as Owens' bold proclamation a few weeks earlier. He announced in an ESPN interview that he'd return to the NFL "in a month or less." As if the decision were his alone, instead of belonging to a team — which had to decide if putting up with the antics of a 37-year-old wide receiver coming off a major knee injury was worthwhile.
There was a certain amount of sorrow in watching Owens virtually grovel for work, trying to convince teams that he wasn't over the hill and his reputation as a divisive diva was overblown. He actually had a decent season in 2010, finishing among the NFL's top 20 players in receptions, receiving yardage and touchdowns. And he's always been a phenomenal physical specimen who keeps himself in great shape.
But his mentality has been questioned during his career. He became one of the league's biggest celebrities but also displayed troubling behavior. There were emotional outbursts and apparent cries for attention. A caller to 911 in October claimed that Owens had attempted suicide; five years earlier, there was another incident that caused worry.
Before he signed with the indoor team this week, Owens did an interview for the current issue of GQ. The profile examines the depths to which he has sunk financially and emotionally. According to the article, when friends text Owens to ask where he is, the reply is chilling:
"I'm in Hell."
Maybe $500,000 from the Allen Wranglers is a cool drink.
But there's a feeling of sadness that's hard to shake.