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Inside the NFL | Sam Farmer ON THE NFL

There's No Method to the Madness of Owens

November 11, 2005|Sam Farmer

Charlie Waters had his share of reality checks after his career as a Dallas Cowboy safety ended. One in particular stands out.

He was at a Dallas airport counter checking in for his flight. Usually, a ticketing agent would recognize his name and bump him up from coach to first class. That didn't happen this time. So Waters, a good-natured, typically humble guy, asked the agent if she might upgrade him, seeing as he used to play for the Cowboys and all.

"Mr. Waters," she said, "that doesn't mean anything to us. You can purchase an upgrade if you like."

Life is a little different when you're out of the spotlight.

"When you're done with football," said Dan Hampton, a Hall of Fame defensive lineman for the Chicago Bears, "it's almost like every day you have to say, 'I'm a recovering football player, and no one gives a ...' "

Said Darryl Talley, a linebacker on the Buffalo Bills' Super Bowl teams: "You're like a used tire. Once you've used that rubber up, you're no good to them anymore."

None of these guys were complaining about the realities of life after football. I just called them after watching Terrell Owens try to plead his way back onto the Philadelphia Eagles after blowing chance after chance with the team. There he stood, on the lawn of his Philadelphia-area home, spotlight-hoarding agent Drew Rosenhaus by his side, finally apologizing to quarterback Donovan McNabb, Coach Andy Reid, owner Jeffrey Lurie, anyone who might bail him out of his latest predicament.

It wasn't the flat, emotionless type of apology that he'd issued before, in which he rattled off words from a prewritten statement. He looked desperate this time, as if he really had something to lose.

And he does. The four-game suspension without pay will cost him more than $800,000, and he stands to lose millions more in future contracts and potential endorsements. Because he's a tremendously talented player, a team will give him a chance. But the way it looks now, it will be a rent-a-T.O. situation in which he strings together one-year deals the way Jeff George, Andre Rison and other troubled players have.

The thing is, Owens had a point in wanting to negotiate a new deal with the Eagles. Teams have an unfair upper hand when it comes to contracts in that they can cut a player at any time and terminate the bulk of his deal. So why can't players do the same, or at least have some leverage?

It's just that Owens -- with Rosenhaus whispering in his ear -- went about it the wrong way. He blasted Lurie, openly criticized McNabb at every turn and approached his job with a cartoonish sense of entitlement -- as if the game were somehow created for him. And, indications are, no one in his inner circle dared to tell him different.

That type of superstar syndrome is becoming increasingly common, agent Leigh Steinberg said, as eight-figure incomes and round-the-clock coverage leave some players feeling not only bigger than their team, but bigger than the game.

"Agents are afraid to give them prudent advice because they think they'll get fired," Steinberg said. "The players aren't accepting good parental advice. They surround themselves with friends who are in awe of them.

"If they were standing on a ledge 75 floors up, they'd be surrounded by friends and an agent who would say, 'The laws of gravity don't apply to you! You can make it! You can fly!' "

Personally, I'd settle for flying coach.

It's About (Recovery) Time

While there's never a good time for a player to have knee surgery, Ben Roethlisberger's timing could have been worse. The Pittsburgh quarterback underwent arthroscopic surgery last week to clean up torn meniscus in his right knee. He sat out last Sunday's game at Green Bay, which the Steelers won, will not play in Sunday's home game against Cleveland, and hopes to return for the Nov. 20 game at Baltimore.

The Steelers' toughest stretch starts at the end of this month, with games at Indianapolis, then at home against Cincinnati and Chicago.

For the first time since surgery, Roethlisberger walked without crutches Wednesday, threw some soft passes at practice and rode a stationary bike. He plans to be on the sideline Sunday to watch backup Charlie Batch make his second consecutive start.

Staying home to watch the game against the Packers was "the toughest thing for me," Roethlisberger told reporters.

"I was sitting there yelling, I was screaming, I was yelling guys' names," he said. "I was telling them 'good job' and I was seeing some things that were going on. So, it was kind of interesting. I'm sure the people who were watching with me were entertained by my antics."

New Coach Gets Offensive

With Joe Vitt filling in for recovering Mike Martz as head coach in St. Louis, the Rams are not only running the ball more effectively, but throwing it better, and finally protecting Marc Bulger.

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