Posted: Thursday April 14, 2005 2:55PM; Updated: Thursday April 14, 2005 2:57PM
It didn't take long for the Terrell Owens-Philadelphia Eagles marriage to hit a snag.
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Terrell Owens continued his Michael Corleone approach to contract re-negotiations Wednesday with his "nothing personal, just business" salvos launched at the Philadelphia Eagles family. Turns out he loves boss Andy Reid, consigliore Joe Banner, capo Donovan McNabb and the Eagles' million-plus loyal soldiers. It's just that T.O. feels he has been cheated, and for that, someone must pay.
For those of you who haven't been following the latest Owens drama, choosing instead to figure out whether Mel Kiper's hair is fireproof or planning your autumn around that prime-time clash between the Seahawks and Texans, a review is in order. Owens fought his way out of San Francisco last spring, leaving a trail of napalm in his wake that trashed the franchise and cowardly questioned quarterback Jeff Garcia's manhood. He was on his way to Baltimore, before NFL honchos redirected him to Philadelphia in a transaction so bungled it appeared as if the NHL had handled it. Free and loving it, Owens signed a seven-year, $46 million (give or take) deal with the Eagles and declared himself happier (and wealthier) than Jerry Jones' plastic surgeon. All was great, especially when the Birds' $8.5- million bonus check cleared, and T.O. was rolling in Sharpies.
You ought to know the rest. Owens caught 14 TD passes and helped the Eagles to the NFC's best record. He worked his way back into top condition after a broken leg and played valiantly in Super Bowl XXXIX, catching nine passes for 122 yards in Philly's near-miss. Even though the dream died, Owens had come out of the 2004 season in great shape, praised for his toughness and commitment, while Eagles court jester and sometimes receiver Freddie Mitchell played the malcontent. Big things were ahead.
But enough background. This is about Owens' recent displeasure with his lot, based on the paltry (by top wide receiver standards) $3.5 million salary he will be paid this year and his fear that next season's scheduled $7.5 million bonus check won't come through, since the Eagles aren't fond of shelling out big coin for 33-year old receivers -- and, per league policy, don't have to pay up. Were the money guaranteed, Owens wouldn't have a case. He'd be getting about $20-22 million for three years work.
Since NFL contracts aren't guaranteed, and future Hall of Famers (at least in their minds) can get cut without reason or remuneration, Owens has a right to pull a Corleone stance on the Eagles. If he's 33 years old and on the street, even with two big seasons of receptions, touchdowns and dance steps in Philly, he isn't going to command top-tier money. No way. He needs security.
But, in typical T.O. fashion, he has gone about this all wrong. First, he dumped long-time "friend" and agent David Joseph in favor of Drew Rosenhaus. No problem there. A player can choose whatever representation he wants. But by selecting Rosenhaus, reputation sits somewhere between that of Gordon Gecko and an asp, Owens signals that he's going to the mattresses with Reid and Banner. Good business. Bad P.R.
Owens has further hurt himself in the eyes of the Eagles "faithful" by spouting off about how he "settled for a low-ball number" on his contract and how he "is a top player in the game, and (his) current contract doesn't justify that," even though he is the third-highest paid receiver, behind Marvin Harrison and Randy Moss. Worst of all, he took a shot at McNabb, the unquestioned team leader, by saying that Owens wasn't the one who was "tired and out of shape in the Super Bowl." Owens compounded the problem by not admitting that he was targeting McNabb, whose on-field condition during the waning moments of the big game has been a hot topic of conversation.
In short, Owens has blown it again. He may get some more guaranteed money out of the Eagles, who are not taking their usual hard-line stance -- at least publicly -- against renegotiations. But by spouting off to columnists and other media members about his situation and trying to brand himself as a victim, despite being just a year into a seven-year contract, he is further establishing himself as a serial malcontent and incredibly selfish player. Owens would like us to believe that this is "just business," but as he has proven before, it's all about T.O. While he tries to make sure that he doesn't "shortchange his family" with the meager $12.5 mil he's scheduled to take in by the end of the '05 season, Owens had better be careful. He's accusing the Eagles' organization of leaking information to "turn the city against (him)," but the reality is he's doing a good job of that by himself.
And that's not good for business.
EL HOMBRE SEZ: Throughout his career, Mike Tyson has been one of sports' most controversial characters. Love him or hate him, one can never accuse him of being boring. Take the press conference in advance of Tyson's June 11 fight with tomato can Kevin McBride. After predicting the event would be a "train wreck," he offered this gem: "Look at my life. I've been embarrassed. Humiliation. Degradation. And any other kind of T-I-O-N you can name." Priceless. ... Here's a little suggestion to new Colorado athletic director Gary Bohn: Fire your football coach. As long as Gary Barnett is directing the Buffaloes' program, the school will continue to suffer from the residue of the scandal that has already brought down the CU president, chancellor and former A.D. Yes, it will be costly to pay off Barnett, but if a university is going to sacrifice its integrity for the dollar, what kind of institution is it?
AND ANOTHER THING: We hear a lot about how American sports fans are poorly behaved, but we have nothing on folks in other parts of the world. First of all, who thinks to bring flares to a soccer game, as those cretins did who launched them onto the field during Tuesday's AC Milan-Inter Milan match? And how much ale has to be consumed before one thinks it's appropriate to jeer during a moment of silence for deceased Pope John Paul II, as some knuckle-walking Scots did before a game last weekend? El Hombre won't even get into the quaint Central American custom of pelting opposing players with bags of excrement. We can be bad, but these fans are vermin.