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A.I.: All this free time has given me a chance to think, T.O. What if the only reason teams put up with us all those years was that we were so talented they had no choice? What if nobody seems interested in us now because we're not good enough to be worth the trouble anymore? People always did say that we weren't team players, that we were too wrapped up in ourselves. T.O.? You listening to me?
T.O.: What? Oh, sorry. I was staring at my abs.
A.I.: O.K., turn away from the mirror for a second. Think about it. Guys like us, superstars who happen to be a little high-maintenance, don't get to go out on our own terms once we start to slip a bit. Look at Randy Moss. No one signed him because he's moody and demanding and can't give you a 1,200-yard season anymore. Same with Barry Bonds. He didn't want to retire after his Giants career ended, but no one wanted to take on all his baggage. Maybe if we had been easier to handle in our prime... .
T.O.: You could be right. It's a shame, though, because there's so much we could teach young players. We're a dying breed, A.I. Where are the prima donnas of tomorrow going to come from? Look at Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona. He hasn't had a quarterback who could get him the ball in two years, but he has to be so classy about it. He should be whining like a preschooler at nap time, the way I used to. I'm pretty sure Donovan McNabb has only 80 percent hearing in his right ear from all my yapping.
A.I.: Yeah, you were the master at that.
T.O.: Same with Calvin Johnson in Detroit. He made two touchdown catches in Dallas a few weeks ago, and did he once run to the star at midfield and do a look-at-me pose? No. Does he even own a Sharpie he can pull out of his sock to autograph the ball after he scores? I mean, how do these guys expect to get their own reality shows if they don't call attention to themselves? They're all about team, team, team.
A.I.: You don't have to tell me. Check out the NBA. You know what's amazing about Derrick Rose of the Bulls? It's not that he's the MVP at age 22; it's that he shows up at every practice. On time. That's wild. All the young stars today, like Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City and the Clippers' Blake Griffin, pretty much play with halos over their heads. It's as if nobody ever informed them that when you're that good, you can get away with doing—or not doing—whatever you want. Maybe they're lucky no one ever told them that.
T.O.: So you're saying that we're the ones who should take a lesson from them? Hmm. Could be. As soon as I get back in the league, I'll be a better teammate. I'll be different. It's never too late to learn.
A.I.: I don't know, T.O. Maybe sometimes it is.