Get Your Popcorn Ready as T.O’s Circus Comes to Buffalo

Bills Owens Football

T.O’s traveling circus has landed in Buffalo and it will be interesting to see how long the honeymoon last’s in Western New York

T.O’s back and there’s gonna be trouble…Hey LA…Hey LA.. T.O’s back.  Future Hall of Famer and erratic receiver Terrell Owens must be part cat as he found yet another NFL home (4th team) less than a week after being released by the Dallas Cowboys, surprisingly signing with the small-market Buffalo Bills.  The desperate move by Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson Jr, age 90, to sign the enigmatic Owens to a one-year, $6.5-million deal ($2.5 salary w/ $4 million signing bonus) is the 2009 Hall of Fame inductee’s latest attempt to infuse excitement into his struggling franchise.  The Bills already are playing two games a year in Toronto, because their stadium situation is one of the worst in the NFL and Wilson wants to see a winner before he leaves everything behind. Wilson said of the signing, “We are happy to announce that we signed Terrell Owens to our team, we all know of his tremendous ability and look forward to what he will bring to our offense.”  I guess any owner would be happy to add an explosive part to an anemic offense that last year ranked 25th in the NFL in yards gained and failed to have a 300-yard passing.

However in signing the disruptive Owens, you have to think that the poor Bills (three consecutive 7-9 seasons, no playoffs since 1999, and one of the NFL’s smallest revenue streams in a bad economy) may have bitten off more than they can chew.  There is no question that Owens, 35, brings a boatload of talent — career numbers of 951 receptions for 14,122 yards (14.8 ypc) and 139 TDs – but he also brings a circus type atmosphere fueled by animosity and a “Me-Me” attitude that has destroyed relationships/locker-rooms in San Francisco, Philadelphia and Dallas.  Think about it, T.O is the one man who maverick Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who lately has been running a home for wayward NFL players with player personality guru and former Cowboys’ running back Calvin Hill serving as “Father Flanagan”, said “Enough” to — not even notorious “Bad Boy” receiver Michael Irvin heard those words from Jones.   When asked about his divisive reputation, Owens said, “That’s all hearsay. If you look at all of the comments that have come from all of my teammates with the Cowboys, it’s all been positive. Prior to that … I don’t really want to get into it.”

The one-year signing does make sense on one level for an offense that could use a quality partner for emerging talent Lee Evans and a small-market team trying to “catch lightning in a bottle” in the big-ticket NFL.  But you have to wonder if the Bills are even getting the real T.O at this stage in his career.  Owens will be thirty-six next season and despite decent 2008 numbers of 69 receptions for 1,052 yards (15.2 ypc) and 10 TDs, he has not been as explosive on the field to merit the problems that he has caused off the field — questioned former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia’s sexuality, fought with Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb over his Super Bowl performance, training camp verbal altercation with former Eagles offensive coordinator Brad Childress, TV Camera sit-ups on his front lawn during a suspension, fighting with Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo over game plans, and much more.  Owens also in his three-year stay with the Cowboys had 60 dropped passes including 33 in 2008.  The two people that better get “their popcorn” ready to deal with the divisive Owens are Bills 3rd year quarterback Trent Edwards and embattled head coach Dick Jauron – on a very hotseat entering ’09 — as they are the new ringmasters of the T.O Circus.  Which means get ready to stroke the ego of Owens while trying to keep fifty-two other players, assistant coaches, the front office, and the media from igniting T.O’s notoriously short fuse.

Edwards said of the addition of Owens, “I am really excited about the addition of Terrell Owens to our team, we spoke earlier and both look forward to working hard this off-season. We share the common goal of winning football games. His ability and experience will add to our offense and the weapons we already have.”  So we all know this summer including training camp will be one big T.O Honeymoon where Owens says and does all the right things including befriending players like fifth string receiver Justin Jenkins, former pal with the Eagles.  But I am officially setting the T.O meltdown alarm for September 13th, which is the opening Sunday of the 2009 NFL Season, when Edwards overthrows T.O and Owens digs into the young passer.  Only time will tell if this version of Owens, this time in Western New York, will finally be able to become a team-first guy.  But don’t’ choke on your popcorn when Wilson eventually sends T.O over nearby Niagara Falls without a barrel.

 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

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The Ocho Cinco Saga Gets Uglier as Johnson Lashes Out at the Team and his Quarterback

(Philadelphia, Pa) – The soap opera around five-time Pro Bowl receiver Chad Johnson and the Bengals went into hyper space yesterday as Johnson (559 receptions for 8365 yards and 49 TDs for his career) had some interesting comments with ESPN’s John Clayton about the situation.  The loquacious receiver said, “I want to be traded before the draft, and if that doesn’t happen, I want to be traded as soon as possible. I don’t intend on reporting to anything.”

Johnson’s comments further exacerbated a bad situation already hanging by a thread after Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer said that Johnson indicated he would be at the team’s mandatory mini camp in June (i.e. The strong armed quarterback “expects” his star receiver there).  The former 2001 first round selection retorted in his interview with the Professor “I don’t know where he got that. I made no assertion to Carson that I would do that. Nothing has changed from what I’ve been saying for three months that I don’t want to play for the Bengals.”  The unhappy receiver ended that subject by simply saying in regard to Palmer, “I wish he would stay out of my business.”

As someone that covered and lived through the 2005 Terrell Owens/Philadelphia Eagles feud that led to a fractured team and a 6-10 season, I have some strong advice for the Cincinnati Bengals and Head Coach Marvin Lewis.  Cut ties now, because it will only get worse.  I know biting the bullet and trading the Pro Bowl type receiver maybe giving into the prima donna me-me-me player, but for the chemistry of the team and Lewis, who is on a very hot seat, before Johnson is doing situps on his lawn everyone will have to accept that this relationship is unfixable.

The similarities with the ’05 Owens situation and Johnson’s current mess are eerie as both had tenuous quarterback-receiver relationship at best, Drew “next question” Rosenhaus is the selfish receiver’s agent, and the me-first receiver is trying to talk his way out of town by being a distraction plus threatening to be a holdout for all team activities.  Lewis and the Brown family have said all along that Johnson will be in a Bengals uniform or nothing else come this fall, but it is easy for both sides to talk tough in April.  I am sure the fun will start this July when training camp opens and the practices are mandatory and the fines pile up.

The Bengals precarious standing with the Cincinnati community due to repeated off the field incidents including recently departed trouble receiver Chris Henry, I know will also factor into this situation.  But after a high of winning the 2005 AFC North title, the Bengals have limped home to two straight non-playoff seasons including a 7-9 record last year. 

Losing Johnson and his 90 plus catch average over the last five years will hurt, but history has shown malcontent receivers are a cancer to a team.  Other than bad boy Andre Rison checking his ego to win a ring with the Packers in 1996, I cannot name a non-team receiver that helped his team win the Super Bowl. 

Now is the time for Johnson and his antics that take away from the team– Did anyone really like the presumptive “Future H.O.F” prank other than Ocho Stinko — to move to another town.  After watching the Raiders only getting a fourth rounder for Randy Moss in 2007, the Bengals can only hope for the best.

However keeping Johnson on the roster is a bad decision that is sure to blow up a team that is struggling to find their identity.  As for the legions of receiver starved Philadelphia Eagles fans that think Johnson is the answer, I can only say don’t let history repeat itself and this guy is not for Philly or Head Coach Andy Reid.