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Thursday, February 9, 2012
The sad story of Terrell Owens

By Calvin Watkins



ALLEN, Texas -- Across from the outlet mall off U.S. Highway 75 at the Allen Events Center on Wednesday night, Terrell Owens talked about getting another chance.

Terrell Owens
Terrell Owens (right, with Allen Wranglers GM Drew Pearson) is 38 and coming off ACL surgery but hasn't filed retirement papers with the NFL.
Owens is once more being paid as a professional athlete -- not in the NFL but with the Allen Wranglers of the Indoor Football League, a minor league arena team. The first game is Feb. 25.

Owens is a 50 percent owner of the franchise along with Jon Frankel.

It was a sad and strange scene seeing Owens stand on the stage, talking to the media and taking questions from fans about his NFL career.

Owens still believes he can play in the NFL, but no team signed him last season. He doesn't have plans to file retirement papers and hopes to use his skill set in this league to show everybody he can still play in the NFL.

He has an opt-out clause with the Wranglers that allows him to leave if an NFL team wants to sign him.

I'm no expert, but one thing I've learned about the NFL is that the younger you are, the better.

Owens is 38. His chances are slim.

I asked Owens why he is in Allen:

"These guys sent me a proposal last year," he said simply. "I have no answers as for why. I know God works in mysterious ways. It was an opportunity for myself and my family. It’s a way for myself to keep in shape. I haven’t retired from the NFL. I want to play a couple more years. This right here will allow me to do that and assess where I am. I know I'm physically fit to play the game still."

Owens also has financial issues. He's lost some of his $80 million fortune because of bad investments, and he wants to tell younger players to be careful with their money.

The major issue with Owens is he doesn't know when to retire. He can't play in the NFL anymore.

It's got nothing to do with his attitude; he didn't get into trouble in his last two stops -- Buffalo and Cincinnati -- and it has nothing to do with previous stops in Dallas, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

Owens doesn't have the skills any more to play in the NFL. He can't get off press coverage and isn't a threat down the field with his speed and while he might possess good hands, who knows if he has the quickness to get into open spots in zone coverage to catch passes.

Owens is also coming off ACL surgery. At 38. Let's say that again -- at 38 years old.

There's a documentary on HBO on boxing great Sugar Ray Robinson, who fought longer than he wanted to because of tax problems. He was a shell of his former self.

In his prime, Robinson was the best ever.

When his physical skills left him, he was just an average fighter, but the man kept fighting to pay off his debts. Charles Rangel, a longtime congressman from New York, said simply of Robinson's prolonged fighting career, "He was a professional."

That's Owens. He keeps fighting. Keeps playing while there are nearly no chances for a return to the NFL. So he will play with the Allen Wranglers and hopes to get a few more cheers again.

He's like that prizefighter who won't go away.

It seems this move is beneath Owens, based on a career that should put him into the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day.

"From a football aspect, no," Owens said of whether playing in this league was beneath him. "There has been some things I have been going through personally from that standpoint and obviously the passing of my grandmother. It has definitely put a lot things in perspective for me and my family. Other than that, I'm not really worried about what anybody thinks or what they say about me from here going forward. I know I have to take control of my life and what I have to do for my family. That is all that really matters."

For maybe the first time since I first started covering him in 2006, Owens seems at peace with himself.

Maybe that's all he has left. Peace of mind.