Monday, August 21, 2006

We Need A T.O. From Owens

Dallas Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells turns 65 tomorrow. He is, frankly, not too old to coach football. But he IS too old to have to deal with cartoon-like wide receivers.

Terrell Owens has this way of sucking attention and focus from his teammates like a leech.

Only is it with Owens that a ride on a stationary bike can become an icon of an entire team's training camp.

Owens, acquired earlier in the year by the Cowboys, has missed most of training camp with an injury. His participation has mostly consisted of riding the bike and giving his coach the hives.

Parcells has been justifiably growing more and more cranky as Owens' passive/aggressive holdout has gained a life of its own. At first, Parcells didn't want to talk about Owens, because he doesn't like to talk about players who aren't playing. Then, as Owens watched practice after practice on his iconic bike, Parcells began to moan to reporters -- again justifiably -- that sooner or later, Owens needs to be on the field.

Now we have diversionary tactics. The REAL story out of the Cowboys' camp ought to be the quarterback situation. Veteran Drew Bledsoe is being nudged -- shoved, actually -- by Tony Romo, and Bledsoe isn't happy about it -- which he shouldn't be, being a 14-year veteran and all. In any other year, Romo/Bledsoe would be dominating August Cowboys news.

But instead we have Owens and his non-participation, which is yet another example of how he can go into leech mode. Whether it's outlandish end zone celebrations, or brazen comments about teammates, or denying the validity of quotes taken from his own autobiography, Owens manages to overshadow his team.

Ironically, Parcells used to have that ability. He became larger than life on the sidelines -- a franchise doctor who had worked wonders at other NFL stops. His hiring by the Cowboys in 2003 was the talk of the NFL. Miniscule hopes that he would be the Lions' next coach, before the team hired Rod Marinelli, had football fans in Detroit slobbering all over themselves. He is, to many, the modern day Vince Lombardi.

But Lombardi never allowed himself to be overshadowed, and his players included such high-profile guys as Paul Hornung, Max McGee, Jerry Kramer, and Bart Starr -- all of whom never shied away from the spotlight.

Owens is bigger than his teammates right now, as usual. He's bigger than the quarterback duel. He's bigger than any other player who catches footballs for a living -- Randy Moss included. But what's different this time is that he's bigger than a coach who's not used to playing second fiddle to anyone, let alone one of his players. And Parcells coached Lawrence Taylor, don't forget.

Parcells turns 65 tomorrow, but certainly he might feel 75 or 85 before the season kicks off next month.

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