Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Roscoe perishing on Buffalo's sideline
Luc Leclerc/US Presswire
Roscoe Parrish wants to be known as more than just a punt returner.
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Not every Buffalo Bill was delighted by the Terrell Owens signing.
The bombshell acquisition caused borderline delirium within the organization and among its fans. Before enough time had elapsed for the deal to sink in, receiver Roscoe Parrish came to the conclusion it wasn't going to create a favorable scenario for him.
"I asked my agent to let the organization know that I wanted to be traded," Parrish revealed after a recent training camp session at St. John Fisher College in suburban Rochester.
Unwilling to part with him, the Bills declined to honor his offseason request. Now he's hoping to make the most of an undesirable situation.
"I had a lot of issues with the organization in the offseason," Parrish said, "and I don't want to bring those negative issues to training camp."
Parrish, entering his fifth NFL season, is an intensely proud athlete. He's an elite NFL punt returner, but that's not enough for him. He figured he would be an established offensive star by now, not trying merely to be relevant, buried on a depth chart, scrounging for passes.
Owens' arrival pushed Parrish down the receiver pecking order to fourth at best. He's behind Josh Reed as the team's slot receiver. If you consider sophomore Steve Johnson, whom the Bills are high on, Parrish might be fifth.
"It's all good to be one of the best punt returners in the NFL, but I came into the NFL to be a wide receiver," Parrish said. "I wanted to leave that behind with a trade because it's a matter of getting used more at wide receiver. I know what I can do."
Parrish has led the NFL in punt return average the past two seasons -- 15.3 yards last year, 16.3 yards the year before. He has dashed for a touchdown three years running.
But the Bills weren't able to figure out ways to get him offensive touches before Owens joined them. It'll be much tougher now.
Parrish's best receiving season was 2007, when he caught 35 passes for 352 yards and one touchdown. Last year, he had 24 receptions for 232 yards and a touchdown.
For Parrish, that kind of action is trifling. He wants to perform, but he apparently has hit a glass ceiling with Buffalo.
"There's only so much a guy with my competitiveness can take," Parrish said. "You got some guys satisfied with being a role player or just being on a team. You got some guys who want to up their games an extra notch every year and not be complacent. That makes you a superstar.
"Coming into my fifth year, I should be a superstar wide receiver, not a punt returner."
"I feel he's a guy that has all this talent and all these big plays just balled up inside him, ready to explode if given the opportunity."-- Santana Moss on Roscoe Parrish
Washington Redskins receiver Santana Moss can relate. He has been mentoring Parrish, trying to buoy him mentally. Moss, also a small receiver from the University of Miami, was drafted by the New York Jets and started out as a return specialist, depth receiver and gadget guy.
Moss increased his reception total by 150 percent by his third season, catching 74 passes for 1,105 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was a Pro Bowler in his fifth season.
"I feel he's a guy that has all this talent and all these big plays just balled up inside him, ready to explode if given the opportunity," Moss said.
"He's going to get his. He puts in the time. He puts in the work. He works harder than most guys at his level. Whether his team allows him to be the guy that he wants to be, that time's going to come sooner or later."
Shortly after the Owens acquisition, reports circulated Parrish was on the trading block, suggesting the Bills were shopping him around. But that wasn't true, regardless of how badly agent Drew Rosenhaus, who represents both Parrish and Owens, wanted to stimulate some action.
The Bills simply weren't interested in trading Parrish. He skipped voluntary workouts. On the first day of mandatory minicamp, he mostly watched from the sideline with an ice wrap on his leg.
"I'm not a guy that's so outspoken, but there's a time when you just have to voice your opinion," Parrish said. "If you don't, they always think you're satisfied. Maybe it'll open the coaches' eyes. They need to know punt returning isn't the only thing I want to do."
About a month ago, Parrish finally came to grips he wasn't going anywhere. That doesn't mean he won't be looking ahead to the October trade deadline if circumstances don't improve.
"I'm not going to say I'm disappointed because I feel if they didn't trade me they got plans for me," Parrish said. "I'm just staying with a positive mindset and just come out here and do what I can do and take advantage of my opportunities.
"I know if I would get my opportunity in a game, all hell's going to break loose. That's how confident I am."
Buffalo is going to an up-tempo, no-huddle offense this year. One can see how depth at receiver will help, but that type of system makes substitutions difficult.
Bills head coach Dick Jauron acknowledged they're trying to find ways to get Parrish more involved.
"We've all seen what Roscoe can do with the ball in his hands, particularly in the open field," Jauron said. "We just need to keep working to find ways to get him the ball. And we also know he's got speed. If he gets a step on somebody he's hard to catch."
Parrish has felt typecast by his size. Listed at 5-foot-9 and 168 pounds, he has been unable to overcome the perception he can't withstand the rigors of every-down football.
But he rattles off a list of names of top NFL receivers who are closer to Smurfs than Goliaths.
"That's the thing that was stressing me out. My situation's not as good as theirs, but I'm not going to say any negative things about it, but I'm just being 100 percent honest with everything. We're in training camp, and I'll just do what I have to do on my end."
Parrish has drawn strength from Moss' story. They work out together in the offseason at the University of Miami campus with fellow Hurricanes such as Andre Johnson and Reggie Wayne.
"He sees other guys he played with and against in high school and college doing things he can do, and he's not being allowed," Moss said. "That can bring a guy down."
"Any punt returner can be a big playmaker on any offense. If you can elude all those defenders by yourself at times you can get the ball on offense."
Parrish cannot afford to become consumed with the belief the Bills are wasting him as an asset or holding him back from developing all he wants to be.
"If you go out there with a negative state of mind and your opportunity comes, you're not going to seize that moment," Parrish said. "I'll never let anybody break me. If this team doesn't use me, another team down the line one day will use me."