As Sean Tomlinson mentioned in this morning’s links post, there’s a report from ESPN’s Chris Mortensen that Terrell Owens has undergone surgery to repair a torn ACL and will be forced to miss a significant chunk of the 2011 NFL season.
That, of course, has many football fans wondering if we’ll ever see the 37-year-old Owens suit up for another NFL game. He has struggled to land one-year contracts on bottom-of-the-barrel rosters in back-to-back seasons, so it’ll likely be impossible for T.O. to find employment this summer.
It’s believed that Owens’ knee won’t be in game shape until November at the earliest, which means the free agent will have to hope that a team in contention will be looking to add depth (or replace an injured player) at the receiver position during the second half of the season.
In a strange way (not a financial one), this could work to Owens’ advantage. Until now, he was slated to become just one of a handful of veteran free-agent receivers. Frankly, Plaxico Burress, Randy Moss and Chad Ochocinco were receiving more attention than T.O., and there was a chance that Owens was going to get overlooked once free agency got underway.
Now, he’ll have a chance to become the star (and only) player in a makeshift second wave of free agency. Teams in need of a wideout in November won’t have many other options (especially with the trade deadline in October).
But that doesn’t mean Owens is going to play football in 2011. There’s no guarantee he’ll be healthy enough in November, and there’s also no guarantee a team will want to take a chance on him and his extra-large personality.
Even prior to suffering this shady knee injury, T.O. simply wasn’t the player he used to be. Although he salvaged some respect with a half-decent season in Cincinnati, an abysmal 2009 campaign in Buffalo was the turning point in Owens’ career. He’s lost the playmaking ability that separated him from every other receiver in football earlier in his career.
It should also be pointed out that his 2010 numbers were inflated by two huge games in which T.O. amassed a combined 20 catches for 363 yards and three touchdowns. Beyond that, he only had one other game in which he was able to muster over 65 yards. He was also hampered significantly by injuries, which is a problem he’s rarely had during his 15-year career.
So Owens might not have much of a shot at landing a gig in 2011. And if he does miss the entire season, will anyone really want a 38-year-old receiver riddled with question marks in 2012?
There’s a decent chance we’ve seen the last of Owens. If so, the Hall of Fame discussions will heat up. In my mind, there’s absolutely no doubt that he’s a Hall of Famer, but the controversy that surrounded Owens during much of his career and a lack of rings on his fingers might hurt his Canton stock.
Ultimately, though, I don’t feel as though you can properly tell the story of the history of professional football without devoting at least a few paragraphs to Owens. In addition to being the second-most productive receiver in NFL history (in terms of yardage), he’ll also go down as arguably the most charismatic player of his generation.
Football purists might say that’s irrelevant, but I think it should count for something.
T.O. was — and is — remarkably unique on and off the field. Combine that with the tangible numbers and it’s hard to argue that he isn’t a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
It’s actually sort of a shame that we might never get to see him again on the field. But something tells me we’ll being seeing plenty of him off the field.
For many, many years to come.