Wide receiver Terrell Owens has done a great job of marketing himself during his 15-year NFL career. En route to becoming an all-time great – No. 2 behind Jerry Rice in career receiving yardage and receiving touchdowns – Owens became a familiar name among casual fans, well-known for his touchdown celebrations, his sideline tantrums and his anti-establishment antics.
He parlayed that success into The T.O. Show on VH1 and celebrity outside the NFL. But that also made teams wary of bringing him aboard the last few seasons, concerned about the six-time Pro Bowler’s reputation for being a diva and divisive presence in the locker room.
Now, at 37 and unemployed, coming off knee surgery in April, Owens announced in a recent interview that he’ll return to the NFL “in a month or less.”
If only it were that simple. But Owens won’t be back in the NFL unless a team desires his services, which seems questionable at this point.
He has three factors against him in his quest to land a job: his age, his injury and his image. A team could take a flier on the first two, but the latter might be the deal-breaker.
It’s not that Owens can’t play anymore. He had 72 receptions (tied for 19th in the NFL) with the Cincinnati Bengals last season. His 983 receiving yards ranked 18th while his nine touchdowns tied for 14th in the league. And he’s always been a phenomenal physical specimen who keeps himself in great shape.
But you can’t blame teams that would rather take their chances with less-mercurial, less-controversial players who also are younger and not recovering from torn anterior cruciate ligaments.
Getting away with being a character is easy when you’re immensely talented and highly productive. If a company’s biggest problem-child brings in the most revenue, too, it will overlook most of the behavior and reap the profits.
Owens might’ve been a headache to previous teams but he also was among the best players. No longer at the top of his game, few teams have time for his games.
That’s the tradeoff for being “T.O.” But at least he can make money off the persona elsewhere.
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