There was a time in what now feels like the distant, foggy past when Terrell Owens was talented, petulant, athletic, immature, and explosive, opposing adjectives that led to him being one of the game’s elite wide receivers, and the malcontent who spearheaded the diva wideout movement.

Now he’s just old.

His deep-rooted denial about his NFL future has in part led him to a field that’s half the size of the NFL fields on which he once starred, and there are three fewer players per side. Owens’ popcorn-eating and star-posing act is the kind of theatrical performance best suited for the bright lights and national stage, but now he’s officially playing in the Indoor Football league for the Allen Wranglers, which is a real team in a real league that actually exists.

If you’d like to see Owens perhaps strut with pom poms while he plays miniature football on a 50-yard field, you’ll have to visit the Allen Events Centre, which holds just over 6,000 people, and sounds like a place where model train conventions are held. His deal with the Wranglers also gives Owens part ownership of the team, which allows him to temporarily disguise his presence in the IFL as a business venture.

But don’t be fooled, because this is an NFL showcase. Unlike his failed attempt to garner interest as a free agent earlier this year when no one showed up to his workout, Owens gets a regular opportunity to play meaningful football with the Wranglers. The required athleticism, ability, and skill remain the same, even if the IFL is mutant football.

During a radio appearance on ESPN Dallas today on the Ben and Skin Show with Ben Rogers and Jeff Wade, Owens didn’t say it directly, but it became clear that his stake in ownership is a fallback option that only represents the seeds of his post-football life.

Football–and more importantly, NFL football–remains the primary goal, with Owens saying that in addition to the business aspect, the IFL move presents an opportunity for “people to see that I’m healthy, and I can play”. When asked if he’s better than some current NFL receivers despite his ACL tear last April and the resulting surgery and recovery, Owens didn’t drop any names, but his response was immediate.

“It’s not a question,” he said.

“Even at 50, or 70 or 80 percent I could have done some things just as good if not better. I wasn’t even 100 percent in the Super Bowl and I played on one leg.”

That’s great, Terrell, but that Super Bowl appearance was seven years ago, when you were beginning to age, but you were still 31 and had a handful of productive years left. Despite your supreme physical condition, you’re now 38, and no general manager would take snaps and playing time away from a younger player, and hand them to a cancerous receiver who’s two years shy of 40, and has been out of the league for a year.

It’s nice that Owens has started to think about a life that doesn’t involve football, or at least playing football, because his presence on the field in a Dallas suburb participating in a gimmick carnival imitation of football will do little more than sell a few tickets to those who buy into the intrigue.

At this point, being marketable is Owens’ last marketable skill.

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