Cowboys Feeling Hamstrung By T.O.

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - August 30, 2006
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It’s a bit difficult to feel sorry for the Dallas Cowboys about the media circus that has become their training camp. Not a day goes by that someone is not asking or speculating about Terrell Owens’ hamstring injury and his relationship with Bill Parcells. The only thing we get from the head coach is that “the player,” aka Owens, needs to begin practicing because the NFL is too difficult of a job to just take up at the last moment.

Owner Jerry Jones, the man who brought T.O. to Dallas, has said little other than Owens may have to get used to practicing at only 75 percent. Following his bosses delicate mandate, T.O. did come back for a day only to supposedly re-injure himself and once again rejoin the Discovery Channel sideline cycling team.

Owens is a handful. He is also the most talented receiver in the game. Not exactly an unheard-of combination. Pro sports has always been home to athletes who could dazzle on the field while being a total pain in the locker room. But even among his peers T.O. is different. It seems that Owens knows no limits to what he feels he’s earned - that the only thing that matters is the interests and opinions of Terrell Owens.

And is Dallas reaping what it sowed?

When Owens got the boot from Philly, it was predicted by everyone with a mic or pen that T.O. would have to sign a short-term, below-market deal to whatever team daring enough to take a chance on him. Owens would have to kowtow a bit and show that he was not the monster the media made him out to be before he could land that career-ending big-money deal.

Everyone seemed to recognize that except for the Cowboys’ owner.

Jones was so eager to sign Owens that he actually gave him a pay raise. In 2004 Owens signed a seven-year, $48.97 million contract with the Eagles that included a $10 million signing bonus. With the Cowboys, Owens stands to make $25 million for three years with a $5 million kicker. The front-loaded contract will pay him $10 million for year one. Not bad. Act up for two teams and get a raise. Either Jones is a fool or Owens’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus, is the best negotiator in pro sports.

But as easy as it is to dog Owens for his actions past and present, one has to be honest and admit that it is entirely possible that he may not be in the middle of a power play with his head coach. He may be actually hurt.

From the day Owens signed his deal, the vultures have been hovering, waiting for the experiment to fail. How long would it be before old school toughie Parcells and Owens bump heads? Will he walk over QB Drew Bledsoe as he did to Jeff Garcia and Donovan McNabb? And most importantly, will Dallas be the third team he drags through the mud without accepting any blame? We’re still waiting for the answer, and by the time this finds its way to the bottom of your birdcage we just might have it.

But while reporters have camped outside of the Cowboys’ camp and commentators wail about the destruction caused by Owens, we seem to have missed that fact that he is not the only one logging sideline time because of a hammie.

Nearly every team in the league has someone missing practice because of a strain or tear of the posterior thigh muscles. One of the biggest names has been Steeler receiver Hines Ward. Ward, a nine-year veteran, has missed the entire pre-season with the injury. Yet no one notices. Bears running back Thomas Jones led Chicago with 1,335 yards rushing and is reportedly upset that he has not yet been named the team’s starter. He also has a hamstring problem. Another malcontent?

Now let’s not be so naive as to think the imbalance of coverage has nothing to do with each man’s reputation. Owens is no innocent victim. He must live with the mess that he has created over the years - a punishment that would be fair retribution if he gave a damn.

The wolves are waiting, ready to rip into the carcass as soon as a weakness is spotted.

When Owens will provide it remains to be seen. Hard to think that it isn’t coming.

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