Sometimes I’ve made jokes about Terrell Owens, because not doing that is pretty difficult. More often lately, I’ve sympathized with him, because even though every discernible sign is pointing him towards retirement, giving up the only job you’ve ever had and the only job you’ve ever loved isn’t a task that should be wished upon anyone, especially someone like Owens who seems to get little fulfillment in his life beyond football.
Yet here he is today, admitting what’s inevitable. If he doesn’t get signed this year and before this upcoming season, Owens says he’ll retire.
That’s what he told Mike Freeman in an interview published this morning, meaning that later this summer or early this fall, we’ll finally see the end of a wide receiver’s career that was equal parts dominant and bizarre.
The floor is yours, Terrell:
“If I play this year, that’d be awesome,” Owens said in an interview with CBSSports.com. “If I don’t play this year, I’m retiring.”
“That’s just me being realistic,” he said. “I want to play again. I want to go out on top with a team. I think I can still play, but if I don’t sign with a team, it would be time to retire. I have to be honest with myself.”
Owens is 39, but if you look just at his still Greek-god like level of physical fitness and chiseled-ness, he doesn’t look a day over 22.
Unfortunately, although some of the truly legendary wide receivers have played into their early 40s (Jerry Rice had 1,211 receiving yards with Oakland during his age 40 season), that jerk father time usually takes away speed first. That’s the problem Owens ran into abruptly last summer when he was signed by the Seahawks during training camp, but in preseason games he struggled to create separation.
Although there’s still a faint, reaching, and desperate hope that Owens could be signed, it would take a team getting absolutely decimated at the position in August. Obviously the talent among the available free agent wide receivers has been picked thin at this point in early June, but hypothetically if you’re a general manager with a need for depth, who would you rather sign: Owens, or Brandon Lloyd? The answer there is easily Lloyd, as he’s much younger at 31, and he’s coming off a 911-yard season.
You can even make an argument for Laurent Robinson over Owens, and pretty much every remotely serviceable free agent wide receiver not named Owens. He may still be very much in shape and overbearing physically when he wants to be, but he hasn’t played a meaningful snap since 2010, and he’s torn his ACL since.
Soon, we’ll begin the Hall of Fame conversation around Owens, and it should be a short one. All of the off-field distractions and behavior carry no meaning statistically, and it would be disgraceful to not honor a receiver who currently ranks second in career yards (15,934) behind only Rice and fifth all-time in career touchdowns (156).
Halls of fame are sports museums which preserve history and tell the stories of the game in question, and Owens’ belongs in Canton.