NFL Nation: Terrell Owens

49ers, Bears to add new chapter

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers will add another chapter to their history of games played on the West Coast when they christen Levi's Stadium on Sunday night. Courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info, a look back at some of the more memorable games played at Candlestick Park.

49ers pass the torch to Bears

In 1985, the underdog Bears were 5-0 and got their revenge against the same 49ers team that knocked them out of the playoffs the previous year, winning 26-10 at Candlestick and marking the last time Chicago won at San Francisco. The Bears would go on to replicate the '84 49ers team by going 18-1 en route to a Super Bowl title.

Rice's final home game as a 49er

In 2000, Jerry Rice played his final home game with the 49ers against the Bears. While Rice had seven receptions for 76 yards in a 17-0 win for San Francisco, it was Terrell Owens who stole the show with a then NFL single-game record 20 catches.

Kaepernick's debut

Twelve years later on Monday Night Football, Colin Kaepernick made his first-career NFL start in a 32-7 win over the Bears. Since QBR data was made available in 2006, no quarterback has posted a higher figure in his first-career start than Kaepernick did in his debut against Chicago.
Joe MontanaAP Photo
Score: 49ers 28, Cowboys 27
Date: Jan. 10, 1982
Site: Candlestick Park

The fans got it right picking The Catch.

Was this really a choice?

That is no disrespect to Joe Montana hitting John Taylor to win the Super Bowl in 1989 or to Steve Young and Terrell Owens hooking up with The Catch II to win a 1998 playoff game. Those were the two other finalists in our 49ers most memorable plays feature this week.

Fine, stunning, unforgettable plays. Both of them.


Which is the most memorable play in 49ers' history?


Discuss (Total votes: 46,202)

However, in reality, The Catch is the only choice for the top play in 49ers history. It might be the most memorable play in NFL history.

Whether you were alive or not in 1982, you know this play. You can see Dwight Clark jumping into the sky over Everson Walls to snag Montana’s desperate heave right now, can’t you?

It is one of the most iconic plays in NFL history. This play represents so much more than what it simply was at the moment. It didn’t just surge the San Francisco 49ers into their first Super Bowl -- it changed the course of NFL history.

It was the beginning of a dynasty. It was the arrival of Bill Walsh and Montana as NFL legends.

It knocked the Dallas Cowboys off their perch for a bit. It ignited one of sports' greatest rivalries.

Like all things great, The Catch’s impact was great and long lasting. There is no other play like it in 49ers history. It began the history of the 49ers in a lot of ways, and it certainly defined it.

There was no other choice.

IRVING, Texas -- Dez Bryant is right. He does deserve to be paid by the Dallas Cowboys. He has earned it.

The question is how will he be paid?

He is dynamic with the ball in his hands. He deserves to be in the conversation with the best receivers in the NFL, such as Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, Andre Johnson and whoever else you want to add to the list. That doesn't mean he is at the top of the group just yet, but he deserves to be in the conversation.


Should the Cowboys give Dez Bryant a long-term extension before the season starts?


Discuss (Total votes: 23,361)

He is only 25. He has had more than 90 catches in each of the past two seasons. He has posted 1,382 and 1,233 yards the past two seasons, and he has caught 25 touchdown passes in that span. Those are elite numbers. And he went to his first Pro Bowl last season.

Bryant has improved each year on and off the field, and the Cowboys deserve praise for how they have helped guide him in certain manners. But Bryant deserves the most credit. He has developed close relationships with Jason Witten and Tony Romo. He has changed how he has operated.

He has become one of Jason Garrett’s guys. This year he will be asked to take more of a leadership role in the wide receivers’ meeting room with Miles Austin gone. He likes the responsibility and is not afraid of being “the guy.”

What will make or break a long-term deal for Bryant will be the structure of the contract. The Cowboys will want some insurance.

Most of the bigger deals for receivers revolve around large signing bonuses and lower base salaries in the first few years to help with the salary cap. But do the Cowboys follow that path? They want to keep Bryant hungry and happy. They have seen their past two big-time contracts for wide receivers (Roy Williams and Miles Austin) go up in smoke.

If something were to go awry with Bryant, the Cowboys don’t want to be in a position where they are hamstrung by the salary cap. With higher base salaries, the thinking is Bryant will have to remain motivated to make sure he cashes in every year. It also gives the team an out without killing them against the cap.

Believe it or not, the Cowboys can look at Terrell Owens’ deal in 2006 as a blueprint.

They structured Owens’ first contract with the Cowboys that way. In 2006, Owens received a $5 million signing bonus and $5 million salary in a three-year, $25 million deal. His base salaries in Years 2 and 3 were $7 million and $8 million. Owens had been upset at the structure of his deal when he signed with Philadelphia, which ultimately led him to the Cowboys after a hellacious year with the Eagles.

The Cowboys would want to avoid something similar with Bryant. His agent, Eugene Parker, has a good working relationship with the team, so there could be some common ground to find where Bryant is happy and the team is happy.
Johnny ManzielRonald Martinez/Getty ImagesIs Tony Romo's back enough of a concern for the Dallas Cowboys that they'd take a flier on the media circus that would come with drafting quarterback Johnny Manziel?

IRVING, Texas -- Johnny Manziel is the most polarizing player in this draft, so naturally people believe he will end up with the Dallas Cowboys, the most polarizing team in the NFL.

With the first round coming fast, ESPNDallas writers take a roundtable look at what a union of the Cowboys and Manziel would mean.


Should the Cowboys take Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel with the 16th pick if he falls to them?


Discuss (Total votes: 16,137)

Todd Archer: Let's make an huge assumption here that Manziel will be available at No. 16 when the Cowboys pick in the first round. I ask this question first: Should the Cowboys pick the Texas A&M quarterback? We'll get to "Would the Cowboys pick him?" in a second.

My take is, yes, the Cowboys should take him, and I'm not even thinking about the marketing opportunities and off-field stuff that Jerry Jones thinks about. From a football standpoint, I'd argue it would be a great value pick. There is no way the Green Bay Packers thought they would get Aaron Rodgers in 2005 late in the first round, but they took him even when Brett Favre was playing well. Tony Romo is 34 and coming off two back surgeries. I think he'll be fine and return to form, but what happens if he doesn't or he takes a big hit in Week 8 and is down for the year?

Jerry always tried to find a quarterback on the cheap after Troy Aikman retired and he never found a guy until Romo. And that was lucky. I think he'd be lucky again if Manziel were there at No. 16.

Calvin Watkins: I don't believe the Cowboys should take him. No. 1, I don't believe he'll fall to No. 16 or even out of the top 10. If he does fall to No. 16, the Cowboys should either bypass him or trade down. This team has bigger holes to address such as secondary and defensive line before quarterback. There are quarterbacks later, such as Aaron Murray from Georgia, who can be taken in the second or third round. Yeah, I know Romo is coming off back surgery and he's 34 and all of that. It's a back injury and you never know about backs. However, getting Manziel at No. 16 isn't worth it to me. You can find a good quarterback to groom in the later rounds.

Tim MacMahon: Heck, yes. If you can get a guy you feel is a franchise quarterback in the middle of the first round, you do it, especially when the fate of your franchise rests on a 34-year-old back that has been operated on twice in the past year. This isn't about trying to run Romo out of town. It would be a chance to extend the window of having a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback another decade or so, an opportunity the Cowboys shouldn't pass up after navigating that rickety bridge from Aikman to Romo. It would be complicated for a couple of years because of Romo's massive contract and the potential chemistry issues that Roger Staubach mentioned, but it would be well worth it if Manziel can make plays in the NFL like he did in the SEC.

Jean-Jacques Taylor: No. No. No. A thousand times no. This team has way too many holes to draft a quarterback in the first round to sit behind Romo for at least three years. That makes absolutely no sense. When Green Bay drafted Aaron Rodgers and let him sit, they were a contender. They could afford to do it. There's a good chance Jason Garrett gets fired at the end of next season if he's not in the playoffs. Do you think he wants to take a first-round pick and stash him for the next coach? Heck, no. This was the worst defense in the universe last year. Are they really going to miss out on a chance to help it to draft a quarterback who may or may not be a star?

Archer: OK, let’s move on to the second part of the question: Would the Cowboys take Manziel if he is there at No. 16?

I believe they would. We always talk about how the Cowboys should draft a quarterback every year, so now when they could do it, we’re going to say, "No, not that guy?" I don’t think the next Cowboys quarterback will be developed by this team. In other words, a middle-round pick who sits for a few years and takes over. Almost all of the top quarterbacks come from the first or second round. The Cowboys would have Manziel ready to go without the burden of having to carry the franchise early on. He is skilled. He has ability. And he is a draw. I do think it would be incumbent on the coaches to manage this thing the right way because the second Romo throws a poor pass, fans will be calling for Manziel. You can't operate that way.

Watkins: Say the Cowboys do take him, which I doubt, can you imagine if Romo has a bad game? He has been known to have them from time to time. Garrett would be under pressure to send Manziel into the game when he's not ready. Then if he does use Manziel, you've got a media and fan circus. The Cowboys have endured their own type of drama from Terrell Owens, Pacman Jones, Romo's own issues, Jerry Jones and how he runs the franchise among other things, but a quarterback drama isn't fun for anybody. Having Manziel around isn't fun. But if Jerry drafted him he wouldn't care, it would be about the business of marketing and not the business of football.

MacMahon: Well, that might depend on who gets the last word in with GM Jerry. I can’t imagine Garrett, a head coach fighting to keep his job as he enters the last season of his contract, would be thrilled with the idea of using a first-round pick on a guy who might be holding a clipboard and still drawing a media horde as a rookie. But Stephen Jones seems just as enamored with Johnny Football as his father is. I don't think Jerry could help himself if Manziel were available when the Cowboys are on the clock. A strong football argument can be made for Manziel as a fit, and it’d be a home run for the marketing department. And we all know the Cowboys' GM cares about marketing almost as much as he does about football.

Taylor: Jerry loves collecting baubles. We know this. Dez Bryant was a bauble. So was Terrell Owens. And Rocket Ismail. He loves any marketing aspect that added more cash to the family treasure trove. I can absolutely see Jerry using the force of his personality to persuade Garrett and vice president Stephen Jones the right move to make is adding Johnny Football to the roster, even though he's going to sit for multiple seasons and wouldn't make an impact on the team unless Romo was hurt. Hey, at least the preseason games would be sold out.

Archer: Let's be honest, he won't be there at No. 16 and I think we all believe it would cost too much to trade up to get him, so who takes Manziel and why is he a better fit there than with the Cowboys?

I’m going with Jacksonville. They need a quarterback and they need a draw. It’s probably not the most sound football decision to think of it like that, but the Jaguars have no juice. Manziel would give them some juice. And the Cowboys will see him at Wembley in November. Perfect.

Watkins: It's interesting, but when I read Ourlads' mock draft, it didn't have Manziel going until No. 26 to Cleveland. But when I look at the top 10, I can see six teams taking him. I think Cleveland takes him at No. 4, but you have to wonder about the weather in the AFC North. Manziel hasn't played in that on a regular basis in college. Can he produce in cold weather in Pittsburgh and Baltimore in November and December? Oakland seems logical as well at No. 5. Matt Schaub should start in 2014 and Manziel would get his chance the following year. It's just no easy place for him to go. Houston, I don't believe, thinks Manziel is better than the two defensive players. So, I guess to answer this question, I think Cleveland takes him at No. 4.

MacMahon: I think the Browns take him at No. 4. The Browns have been searching for a franchise quarterback since cutting Bernie Kosar, and drafting Manziel would fire up a rabid fan base desperately searching for a reason to be optimistic. Strange as it sounds, I also see Cleveland as a team that would give Manziel a chance to succeed early in his NFL career. Josh Gordon just led the NFL in receiving yards as a 22-year-old despite dealing with a QB rotation. Tight end Jordan Cameron is coming off a Pro Bowl season as a 25-year-old. The Browns have two Pro Bowl offensive linemen -- left tackle Joe Thomas and center Alex Mack -- who are in their prime. And Cleveland addressed its need for a running back by signing Ben Tate. Add an electrifying quarterback, and the Browns might actually have one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses.

Taylor: On the surface, Jacksonville should be really intrigued by Johnny Football because they need a quarterback and they need someone to put butts in seats. They're going to be bad again, so they need a playmaker on offense. That said, coach Gus Bradley is a defense-minded dude, so he'll probably go defense and take Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack. That leaves Johnny Football to Cleveland. The Browns have a really good, young defense. They have a young star in receiver Josh Gordon. What they need is a triggerman. Since 2002, the Browns have had 10 different players lead them in passing, which is not a positive. If he's the star some project, Johnny Football will turn that franchise around and he'll own the city.
IRVING, Texas -- There is no way the Dallas Cowboys will let Tyron Smith and Dez Bryant see free agency.

The Cowboys will exercise the fifth-year option on Smith’s contract by May 2, guaranteeing he will be with the Cowboys in 2015. The Cowboys could also use the franchise tag on Bryant in 2015 if they are unable to reach an agreement on a long-term deal.

Ask yourself this question: Who is the last guy the Cowboys wanted to sign to a long-term deal and couldn’t? I can’t think of one.

But for this exercise, let’s ask another question: Who would you pay first?

To me the answer is Smith, and it’s not a knock on Bryant.

Smith is young. He doesn’t turn 24 until December. He could very well have two cracks at the big-money apple in his career. He played in his first Pro Bowl in January. He had his best season and has quickly become one of the best left tackles in the NFL.

Have I mentioned he’s young? The Cleveland Browns signed Joe Thomas to a seven-year deal worth $84 million a few years ago with more than $40 million guaranteed. Thomas was a Pro Bowler in his first four seasons before the new deal, and a two-time All-Pro. So Smith doesn’t quite have those credentials, but have I mentioned he’s young?

Left tackle is a more crucial spot than wide receiver, even for a receiver as good as Bryant. We see teams get by without receivers as dominant as Bryant, but you don’t see very many get by with a substandard left tackle. When a team has a left tackle, they keep him.

Smith might want a shorter-term deal than what the Cowboys want to pay. My guess is the team would like the seven-year structure just to help with the salary cap down the road. Smith might want to go shorter so he’s not yet 30 by the time he hits the market for a second time.

As for Bryant, he has answered all of the critics on and off the field. He appears to have put his troubles behind him, although Jerry Jones said at the Owners’ Meetings that Bryant must keep his guard up. There has to be a little concern about Bryant’s back, which has cost him mostly practice time the past two seasons, but Jones is not worried about the long-term effects.

The structure of Bryant’s deal will be important. Do the Cowboys try to give him higher base salaries in his guarantees rather than an overloaded signing bonus? They did it with Terrell Owens in his first contract after what Owens went through with the Philadelphia Eagles. A similar structure would seem to work for Bryant as well.

Bryant is a force in the red zone, but he can score from anywhere on the field. He has developed his all-around game, but there is more work to do. He is the veteran of the receiver room now with Miles Austin gone, so the younger receivers will be paying attention to him.

The bottom line is Smith and Bryant will be Cowboys for as long as the Cowboys want them, but if you’re picking a guy to pay first, Smith is the answer.

NFLN survey/feared player: Cowboys

January, 9, 2014
Jan 9
Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamakong Suh took home the award as the NFL’s most feared player from an anonymous vote of his peers conducted by ESPN's NFL Nation. Dez Bryant is the Dallas Cowboys' most feared player.

In the recent past, DeMarcus Ware would have received this nod with his double-digit sack seasons, consecutive Pro Bowls and unearthly athleticism. But 2013 was not kind to Ware, who was limited to a career-low six sacks because of numerous injuries.

Bryant is coming off his second straight 90-catch season, earned his first Pro Bowl appearance and has even more unearthly athleticism than Ware.

Bryant had 93 catches for 1,233 yards and 13 touchdowns. The last time a Cowboy had 13 touchdown catches in a season was Terrell Owens in 2006. He became the first Cowboys receiver with back-to-back 90-catch seasons. Tight end Jason Witten had back-to-back 94-catch seasons in 2009-10.

Bryant can make plays that few receivers in the NFL can make. Think of his back-shoulder catch against the Lions in which he pinned the ball to his helmet. He can break tackles like few receivers based on his strength. He has improved as a route-runner and his understanding of his game.

All of it adds up to teams being most fearful of Bryant.

Rogers: Had to learn from past mistakes

December, 10, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS – The voice on the other end of the phone sighed as if he knew he couldn’t get by with just giving glowing remarks about the receiver he coached at the University of Tennessee.

[+] EnlargeDa'Rick Rogers
Marc Lebryk/USA TODAY SportsDa'Rick Rogers has demonstrated his talent. But can he handle success?
“Talented,” Charlie Baggett said before his voice tailed off some. “And immature. That’s Da’Rick (Rogers) for you.”

Rogers’ talent and immaturity went hand-in-hand for him when he played for the Volunteers. He led the SEC with 67 receptions for 1,040 yards during his sophomore season at Tennessee.

“I always said he reminded me of Terrell Owens,” said Baggett, who was the receivers coach at Tennessee. “He’s a big, strong physical receiver with talent like T.O. But he made some bad decisions. He wanted to showboat, he wasn’t as good of a team player that he could be.”

The better the Indianapolis Colts receiver played, the more he moved into the spotlight. Some 18- and 19-year-olds can handle the fame. Rogers wasn’t one of them.

Substance abuse problems. Maturity issues. Dismissed from the football team.

That’s when Rogers became known as the talented but immature kid.

“When you’re young and you have a little bit of success, sometimes you don’t know how to deal with it,” Rogers said. “I did some things wrong in the past, but with that being said, I had to learn from what I did.”

Rogers suddenly had nowhere to go. He was talking to coach at Calhoun High School (Ga.) when the conversation of transferring to Tennessee Tech came up.

Tennessee Tech isn’t in the SEC. It’s not even a Football Bowl Subdivision school. It’s a Football Championship Subdivision school located in Cookeville, TN.

That’s a long way from playing in The Swamp in Gainesville, Fla., or at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn.

Tennessee Tech coach Watson Brown knew he was taking a risk since they don't routinely accept transfers. Rogers' talent was too good to pass up, though. He met with the seniors on the team and then they voted as a team whether to allow him to be a part of the program.

“The Tennessee situation affected Da’Rick more than people realize because he’s not the kind of person to show his hurt,” said Mike Garigan, a mentor of Rogers. “He knew he had to get back to playing football. One of Da’Rick’s problems was that sometimes he thought his way was better than anybody else’s. Before he matured, he was set that his way was better.”

Rogers caught 18 passes for 303 yards in a game against Southeast Missouri State and finished with 61 catches for 893 yards and 10 touchdowns despite playing a portion of the season with a hip pointer in his lone season at Tennessee Tech.

Rogers skipped his senior season to enter the draft. He had one of the best overall performances at the combine but the draft came and went without his hearing his name called because of his checkered past.

“The kid would have been a first-round draft pick if he would have done what he was supposed to do,” Baggett said. “I’ve been around for 35 years and coached a lot of good players. I knew he had talent and I knew if he developed and got his mind together the sky was the limit for him.”

Fourteen teams reached out to Rogers’ agent about signing with them. He ended up signing with the Buffalo Bills before they released him in late August. Rogers worked out for the Miami Dolphins before the Colts signed him to their practice squad on Sept. 2.

The list of receivers Baggett coached during his 35 years in the NFL and college ranks include Randy Moss, Cris Carter and Plaxico Burress. He puts Rogers near the top in terms of intelligence.

"He’s the smartest football player I’ve ever coached besides Cris Carter,” Baggett said. “Cris Carter was the smartest as far as studying and knowing game and understanding the game. If Da’Rick learns to study the game, he’ll be the smartest football player on the Colts.”

The buzz around Rogers continued to circulate as the weeks passed, but the Colts slowly brought him along, not wanting to overwhelm him with learning the system. The fire in Rogers burnt even more when future Hall of Famer Reggie Wayne went down for the season with a torn ACL.

“It ate me up daily,” Rogers said. “But it made me go to practice every day and put in the extra work to get back on the field and show what I can do for this team.”

The Colts moved Rogers to the active roster for good Nov. 11. It wasn’t until the game Dec. 1 against Tennessee that he was activated for a game. The coming-out party happened last weekend against the Cincinnati Bengals and after Darrius Heyward-Bey dropped down the depth chart.

Rogers had six catches for 107 yards, two touchdowns and a dance in the end zone that he knew he would do when he scored his first touchdown. He's the first rookie to have at least 100 yards receiving and two touchdowns in a game this season.

Rogers’ phone was full of text messages after the game. Coach Brown at Tennessee Tech, Baggett, his agent, his mother and Garigan were just a handful of many people who reached out to him.

“It was a finally-made-it dance,” Rogers said. “That was a little something I do in the club. I never doubted myself. I always felt like I could bounce back. Being so young, everybody makes mistakes. I’d get a second chance was the way I always approached it. Just wanted to make sure I got it and take advantage of it.”

There could be plenty more opportunities for Rogers in the future if he continues to progress the way many in the organization believe he can. Wayne is 35 years old and has to prove he can return to form following ACL surgery. T.Y. Hilton is the only other receiver who will certainly be brought back next season.

Now it’s up to Rogers to prove he can handle his on-the-field success off of it. His inner circle constantly reminds him to avoid temptations.

"That's his biggest challenge," Baggett said. "Do that and he'll make the Colts happy because he's going to produce on the field."
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Leave it to Candlestick Park to reunite the San Francisco 49ers and Terrell Owens.

The team announced Friday that the enigmatic, controversial retired receiver will be an honorary captain for the 49ers’ game against Carolina on Sunday. Owens will be part of the the top 10 moments in Candlestick Park history. It’s been a season-long celebration during the team’s final season at the stadium. The 49ers are moving 40 miles south to a new stadium in Santa Clara (adjacent to the team’s headquarters) next season.

The team will recognize Owens' last-minute 25-yard touchdown catch from Steve Young in a playoff victory against Green Bay in the 1998 playoffs. The play is remembered as “The Catch II” in 49ers' lore. "The Catch," of course, was a Joe Montana-to-Dwight Clark connection to that sent the 49ers to their first Super Bowl in 1982. It kick-started a dynasty for the franchise.

Owens' catch didn’t quite have the lingering affect on the franchise, but it was the zenith of sometimes rocky stint in San Francisco for Owens. He was traded to the Eagles in 2004.

But Sunday, in Owens’ final curtain call at Candlestick, all will be well.

In other 49ers’ notes:

49ers’ coach Jim Harbaugh and Carolina coach Ron Rivera were teammates in Chicago from 1987-92. They face each other as head coaches for the first time Sunday.

Three 49ers participated in this poll concerning the mess in Miami.

Here is a 49ers’ perspective on the NFL putting a franchise in London.

Andrew Luck ready for Monday night debut

October, 10, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS -- Like most kids who grew up as sports fans, Andrew Luck used to beg his parents for permission to stay up and watch the second half of the "Monday Night Football" game. While his family was living in Europe, Luck sometimes watched the second half when the Armed Forces Network showed the game tape-delayed.

Now the second-year quarterback will play his first "Monday Night Football" game when the Indianapolis Colts take on the San Diego Chargers this Monday.

“If you’re going to have a uniform code violation, 'Monday Night Football' is not the night to do it because they will notice,” veteran Colts backup QB Matt Hasselbeck joked. “Don’t wear your socks too low or have any other uniform malfunctions because that will be a quick $7,500 out of your wallet.”

[+] EnlargeAndrew Luck
Pat Lovell/USA TODAY SportsAndrew Luck will make his first MNF appearance
but said he won't be preparing any differently.
There have been some memorable moments on "Monday Night Football."

Terrell Owens and the Sharpie. Randy Moss' rookie season with the Minnesota Vikings. Tony Dorsett's 99-yard touchdown run.

Now it's Luck's turn to have a memorable game in his unofficial coming-out party.

"Monday night, you just think back as a kid growing up, 'Dandy' Don [Meredith] and Howard Cosell," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "You couldn’t wait. Then, to be able to coach and play on Monday night. We know what a privilege it is to play and coach at this level; then, having the opportunity to play on that stage is exciting."

The Colts didn’t make any Monday night appearances during Luck’s rookie season because they were coming off a 2-14 season.

Luck alone is worth watching in this game, but the fact that the Colts are 4-1 and sitting on top of the AFC South makes it even better for them from a national perspective.

“It’s the only show in town,” linebacker Robert Mathis said. “Monday night. They heard about you, now they’re trying to see what you’ve got. You just have to put it on the table.”

Luck’s first real memory of "Monday Night Football" was watching Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre throw for 399 yards and four touchdowns against the Oakland Raiders on Dec. 22, 2003, the day after his father died. Luck was 14 years old at the time.

“Certain games I was able to stay up and watch, good games,” Luck said. “I had sisters to join in the group effort to convince my parents to let us stay up."

Mathis has played with the Colts his entire career. His first Monday night game was as a rookie in 2003 -- Oct. 6, 2003, to be exact.

Does a certain game at Tampa Bay ring a bell?

That was when the Colts rallied from a 21-point deficit with four minutes left in regulation to beat the Buccaneers in overtime.

“I was a young guy following the leaders,” Mathis said. “Playing football until time ran off the clock. We were able to pull it out in overtime.”

Hasselbeck threw his first career touchdown pass on "Monday Night Football." He completed a 9-yard touchdown pass on a fake field goal attempt against Minnesota on Dec. 20, 1999.

“I wasn’t the starter then. I was backing up that guy named Brett Favre,” Hasselbeck said. “We knew we were going to call the fake beforehand. We choreographed the whole end zone dance because it’s 'Monday Night Football.' I throw the touchdown to win the game basically, and the third-string tight end goes off and does his own celebration. I’m running in the end zone to celebrate with him -- I jump up to celebrate on the pile and the pile moved. I missed everything and landed right on my face.”

Don't expect Luck to approach this MNF game differently than any other game. That’s not his demeanor. Hasselbeck said they haven’t even touched on its being a Monday night game in any of their meetings, in the locker room or on the practice field, because the goal is still the same: winning the game.

“Preparation shouldn’t change,” Luck said. “Yes, it’s a day later. We had this extra day [on Wednesday]. Flying to the West Coast, I’m glad we were able to do that with San Francisco [in Week 3] to figure that out. You don‘t want to take away from it being Monday night. You prepare the same, and you know it’s a good San Diego team.”

Marvin Harrison should make Hall of Fame

September, 12, 2013
The Indianapolis Colts could, actually I take that back, should be represented at the Football Hall of Fame next summer.

Former coach Tony Dungy and receiver Marvin Harrison are part of the 16- first-year-eligible modern-era candidates. The election will take place Feb. 1, 2014.

Dungy and the Colts won the Super Bowl in 2006.

Harrison fell off the map after he and the Colts parted ways in 2008. The only blemish on Harrison's resume is his alleged involvement in a Philadelphia shooting in 2008. The gun that was used belonged to him, but he was never charged.

That was off-the-field stuff. The numbers Harrison put up on the field are Hall of Fame-worthy.

Here is more proof that Harrison should be giving a Hall of Fame speech next summer (and his speech would be interesting, because he wasn’t exactly a media darling, according to those who covered him).
  • His 1,102 receptions are third behind Jerry Rice and Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez, who is still catching balls today.
  • His 14,580 yards are sixth behind Tim Brown, Isaac Bruce, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Rice.
  • Harrison’s 128 touchdowns are fifth behind Cris Carter, Owens, Moss and Rice.

So in other words, Harrison can go ahead and get sized for his tailored Hall of Fame jacket.
ARLINGTON, Texas – It was ridiculous enough when T.O. celebrated on the Dallas Cowboys' star. What the heck is up with A.J. pulling that strutting stunt?


His name is A.J. Bouye, an undrafted free agent cornerback out of Central Florida who hopes to earn a spot on the Houston Texans' roster, a cause his interception early in the fourth quarter of Thursday’s preseason finale should have helped. But Bouye earned a 15-yard penalty and the scorn of Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, the former Cowboys head coach, by jogging to the star logo at AT&T Stadium's midfield and celebrating by raising his arms and looking toward the roof.

It was a scene that conjured up memories of then-San Francisco 49ers receiver Terrell Owens’ infamous star-celebrating stunts at Texas Stadium in 2000.

“That’s just stupid. It’s just stupid,” said Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee, who sat out the game with the rest of the Dallas starters. “I understand having fun with the game, but you know me, I don’t like to celebrate too much. I like to worry about winning football games and moving on to the next play. I guess there’s having fun out there, but at some point, it can be a little bit much.”

Bouye, who was far from brash after the Texans’ 24-6 victory, agreed with Lee’s assessment.

"I wasn't thinking, I was being stupid,” Bouye said. “It was disrespectful for me to do it, for the team and the other team. I wasn't thinking. … They don't' teach us to do that. For me to even do that was disrespectful.”

The Cowboys weren’t too bothered by the disrespect. Lee wasn’t even aware of it until informed about the incident by a reporter, as was also the case with Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant. Owner/general manager Jerry Jones shrugged it off as “just motivation for us,” then asked if Bouye was flagged.

The Cowboys basically responded to the rookie moment by rolling their eyes.

“He’s got to understand that this is nothing to get excited about,” Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant said. “It didn’t count. It’s preseason. This is preseason. I’m not trying to bust his bubble, but it’s the truth. It’s just preseason.”

It was much more heated when Owens twice sprinted to the star to celebrate after scoring touchdowns in the 49ers’ September 2000 victory at Texas Stadium, which prompted ex-San Francisco coach Steve Mariucci to fine and suspend his star receiver for a game. Safety George Teague’s tenure with the Cowboys is best remembered for him running after Owens on the second occasion and delivering a big hit at midfield.

The Cowboys could have used Teague on Thursday night. None of the Cowboys on the field confronted Bouye.

“I’ve got George coaching my grandson,” Jones said, “so I’ve got him doing some heavy lifting someplace else.”
PHILADELPHIA -- The talk on the radio this morning was of Terrell Owens, which is downright preposterous and actually makes you wonder if there's any real hope for sports discourse. More realistic free-agent options (i.e., guys who have played at least one game in the league in the past three seasons) include Brandon Lloyd, Laurent Robinson and Austin Collie. But as the Philadelphia Eagles confront 2013 life without receiver Jeremy Maclin, who tore his right ACL in practice Saturday, it doesn't sound as though you should expect them to make any moves like that.

"We have a lot of faith in our skill position group as a whole. That's kind of how we look at it," Eagles GM Howie Roseman said before Sunday's practice. "We're not only looking at the wide receiver group. We look at the running backs. We look at the tight ends. Those are the guys that we have high hopes and expectations for."

[+] EnlargeJeremy Maclin
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesDon't expect the Eagles to rush out and sign a free agent to replace injured receiver Jeremy Maclin.
This is obviously the kind of thing a GM says after a major injury like this one, and obviously it's possible it's not true and that Lloyd and Collie will be in for workouts by the end of the day. But I think Roseman's answer here speaks to the big-picture look the Eagles are taking of their roster and of Chip Kelly's first season as their coach. The idea of replacing Maclin by adjusting the responsibilities of the remaining personnel, regardless of position, is much more in line with what Kelly seems to be about than rushing out to find an established replacement would be.

"When we met with Chip originally, he's much more personnel-driven than even I thought just from observing him at Oregon," Roseman said. "So it's going to be based on the guys who are producing at a high level. If that's the tight end position, they'll get more reps. If it's the receiver position, if it's the running back group ... I think that's yet to be determined since we're so early in camp."

We've been talking about this since before the Eagles hired Kelly. The best coaches are the ones who accurately assess their personnel and its capabilities, and design their schemes around those. It's not as though Kelly had some ironclad plan to run a certain specific offense and needs a piece to play the Maclin part in it. Losing Maclin makes the wide receiver group worse, unquestionably, but the depth the Eagles have at tight end (Brent Celek, James Casey, Zach Ertz) and running back (LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown, Felix Jones, Chris Polk) offers Kelly options in the likely event that Arrelious Benn, Damaris Johnson and Riley Cooper aren't enough to replace Maclin's production. Kelly could be sitting in a film room two weeks from now deciding that the backs look so good that the September plan will be to throw it to them as much as possible.

I wrote Saturday that the Eagles won't be able to effectively replace Maclin, and I stand by it. But they're still going to have to play the games and do what they can to score as many points as possible. It appears as though their plan for handling this situation is the same one they've had all along -- to evaluate what they actually do have and be creative with it. Kelly surely isn't scared of that. On the contrary, it appears to be something he relishes.

Pat Summerall never developed a signature call during four decades broadcasting NFL games for CBS and Fox. "Unbelievable" might have been as close as he came.

That probably wasn't by accident.

For Summerall, who died Tuesday at age 82, the broadcasts always seemed to be more about the games than what he had to say about them. That could also explain why I couldn't immediately think of a memorable call Summerall made during the 25 or so years I watched him on TV.

The San Francisco 49ers were the dominant NFL team through the 1980s, when Summerall began his memorable run with John Madden in the booth. The 49ers remained one of the best through most of the 1990s as well. But as things turned out, Summerall wasn't on the call for some of the 49ers most memorable moments.

Vin Scully and Hank Stram had the call for CBS on "The Catch" back in early 1982.

Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen were behind the microphones for NBC when Joe Montana drove the San Francisco 49ers downfield to beat the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII.

Summerall and Madden did have the call for Steve Young's winning touchdown pass to Terrell Owens against the Green Bay Packers following the 1998 season.

"Three-man rush and Young stumbles on the way back and fires up the middle," Summerall said as the play unfolded. "Pass is caught by Owens. Owens made the catch."

Eleven seconds passed before Summerall or Madden said anything.

"This is amazing," Madden said.

Another 15 seconds passed while 49ers players celebrated and the Candlestick Park crowd roared.

"Three seconds left," Summerall finally said.

A few more seconds went by.

"Terrell Owens was having a rotten day," Madden said, "but on one play here, does he make up for it."

Madden then described the coverage on the play before Summerall spoke up.

"Perfect pass," Summerall said, his first words in 18 seconds.

"Holy moley!" Madden said.

"Three seconds left as they line up for the extra point," Summerall said just as the kick sailed through, "and it's 30-27, San Francisco."

"And the 49ers are getting the monkey off their back today," Madden said.

"Unbelievable," Summerall said.

NFL32: T.O. on the comeback trail

April, 4, 2013

Cris Carter breaks down whether Terrell Owens can make a comeback and play in the NFL; the NFL32 crew discusses how J.J. Watt played with a dislocated elbow last season.
Every NFC West team but the Arizona Cardinals could reasonably rank a wide receiver upgrade high on its list of priorities.

The Cardinals should be set at the position with Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd.

One Seattle fan I heard from through the NFC West mailbag thinks the Seahawks are better than advertised at the position. I'll use the opportunity to take a big-picture look at NFC West teams' production when targeting wide receivers last season.

"I think many fans are misled into believing that we have a weak corps by the fact that the Seahawks are more of a run-dominant team," Brandon from Bremerton, Wash., writes via the mailbag. "Showing the number of targets and the efficiency of catching those targets would be a great measure of how receiving corps are ranked."

We can do that, Brandon. First, though, a few words of warning. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson held the ball an NFL-high 3.64 seconds before passing when targeting wide receivers, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That bought time for his receivers to get open, often farther downfield. That helps explain why Wilson's passes to wideouts traveled 13.2 yards past the line of scrimmage on average, fifth-longest in the NFL.

Getting open is easier when the defense must worry about a dominant running back such as Marshawn Lynch and a dynamic scrambler such as Wilson. The way Seattle incorporated read-option wrinkles into the offense stressed defenses further.

Seattle ranked 31st in pass targets to wide receivers. That confirms what Brandon said about Seattle being a run-dominant team. But the Seahawks' wide receivers ranked eighth in percentage of targets resulting in completed passes. Seattle's wideouts ranked third in lowest percentage of dropped passes, according to the standard ESPN Stats & Information employs in-game charting. They were also sixth in yards per reception.

The first chart shows where NFC West teams' wide receivers ranked in various categories. Factors beyond the wide receivers come into play. The Cardinals ranked 32nd in expected points added on pass plays targeting wide receivers. I would blame the overall state of their offense, starting at quarterback, more than I would blame the receivers even if the wideouts didn't play as well as anticipated in some cases.

Seattle's efficiency when targeting wide receivers was good, but would it drop appreciably if the Seahawks became more of a throwing team? Or would Wilson continue to maximize the position, getting even more from his receivers as the group worked together more over time? Seattle ranked 19th through Week 7 and fifth thereafter in EPA when targeting wide receivers.

That's a run through some of the statistics. I'd say the Seahawks were better than anticipated at wide receiver. They went from hoping Terrell Owens would catch on to watching Sidney Rice and Golden Tate flourish. Each finished with seven receiving touchdowns. Again, Wilson had a great deal to do with that.

Adding another receiver through the draft would make sense, in my view.

Doug Baldwin has had some injury troubles. Rice had injury problems before last season. Ben Obomanu has been a valuable role player with special-teams ability as well, but he's scheduled to earn $2.3 million in salary for the 2013 season. It's probably time for a younger player to fill that role at lower cost. And if that younger player pushes Tate, Rice or Baldwin for playing time right away, all the better for Seattle.




Thursday, 9/18
Sunday, 9/21
Monday, 9/22