Mark Wiedmer: Is the end finally here for T.O.?

Mark Wiedmer: Is the end finally here for T.O.?

August 27th, 2012 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

UTC alumni and NFL star Terrell Owens visits a game.

Photo by Robin Rudd /Times Free Press.

Personally, I think Terrell Owens still has at least one more NFL season in him, though it apparently won't be with the Seattle Seahawks, who cut him Sunday afternoon.

I don't care if you're 38 (as is T.O.), 28 or 18, if you can run a sub-4.5 seconds in the 40-yard-dash, you can still help somebody.

Especially when you've caught the second-most touchdowns and piled up the second-most receiving yards in NFL history.

But much like the man he shares the second most touchdown catches with -- Randy Moss -- Owens' personality is as much or more of a negative as his outrageous physical talents have been a positive.

And when your dropped passes become more memorable than your caught ones, you can easily become expendable, which is where Owens now finds himself.

It's not just that he caught but two balls in his two preseason games with the Seahawks. His drop of a perfect 46-yard strike from Seattle quarterback Matt Flynn -- a drop that should have been a touchdown -- became the signature moment of his brief comeback.

Never mind that he made a stunning 40-yard grab against Kansas City in his last game, a grab in which he had to both slow down and lean back to corral rookie QB Russell Wilson's throw.

There were just too many drops and too little production against first-team defenders to justify holding onto a 38-year-old malcontent with unreliable hands.

Yet could there also be a silver lining in all this, a slender ray of hope for Owens to make one more play to play?

By cutting T.O. when it did, the Seahawks were able to void the $1 million contract he'd signed for this season. But once the season begins, he could be brought back to the Seahawks or signed by someone else for less money.

Given the injuries guaranteed to shorten NFL rosters as the season progresses, Owens' past success should all but guarantee future employment if he's willing to play for small money by his past standards.

But let's say that never happens and this is the end for the former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga product.

How should he be remembered? Should he one day enter the Hall of Fame? Is there any way for Owens to mend his image of a mouthy, pouty, egomaniacal drama queen who's managed to alienate every franchise stupid enough to believe it could live with him?

After all, it's not like Owens has been a drug-addicted, woman-beating monster given to 105-mph police chases, unlicensed assault rifles and strip-club melees.

In fact, take away T.O.'s rather unseemly parental history of fathering four children by four different women and his subsequent trouble in meeting his child support payment demands -- and that's hard to forget and harder still to forgive -- and his behavior has been fairly quiet.

Regarding enshrinement in Canton, Ohio, Owens may become the ultimate test case for image versus substance, as if T.O. stands for Too Obnoxious. His numbers -- 153 touchdowns, 15,934 yards, 1,078 catches -- may almost demand that a bronze bust of T.O. be placed in the Hall of Fame.

But his antics -- mocking the Dallas Cowboy star logo when he played for San Francisco, throwing quarterbacks Jeff Garcia (49ers) and Donovan McNabb (Philly) under the bus, his manic desire to turn every touchdown into a SportsCenter moment -- certainly give his critics legitimate arguments to keep him out, or at least long delay his entrance.

Despite a career that could ultimately run at least 16 seasons, Owens has no Super Bowl rings, but one Super Bowl appearance and the general image problem that he cares much more about himself than his team in a sport that is the ultimate team game.

His parental issues also do him no favors. For a guy who's made millions to claim he's financially incapable of honoring his child support payments is both disgusting and disturbing.

There could be a way out, however. Owens could go on a speaking tour of colleges and NFL locker rooms and tell them to be a far better person than he's been. Cut out the look-at-me celebrations. Never criticize a teammate in public. Never father a child you aren't prepared to make an important part of your life. Put at least half of the money you make in conservative investments. Finally, understand that all this could be taken from you with a single injury. Treat every season, if not every practice, as if it could be your last.

To T.O.'s credit, he tweeted this regarding Seattle's decision to cut him: "I thank the organization for the opportunity. I'm truly blessed beyond belief. My faith is intact and will not waiver."

If no other organization comes forward to give him a final opportunity, at least he's exiting the NFL with far more grace than he ever displayed while a part of it.