JUST WHINE, BABY

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS -

Why would the Raiders and their ane­mic pass­ing at­tack steer clear of volatile re­ceiver Ter­rell Owens?

Ter­rell Owens is a man ev­ery­where and nowhere at all, con­stantly on ex­hi­bi­tion yet still await­ing an au­di­tion.

The Oak­land Raiders are a fran­chise that has spent re­cent months mak­ing log­i­cal moves in hopes of shed­ding years of fail­ure and an ap­pre­cia­ble de­cline in busi­ness.

Owens is an ac­com­plished vet­eran wide re­ceiver seek­ing em­ploy­ment; the Raiders have zero ac­com­plished vet­er­ans at wide re­ceiver.

He says he wants a job, wants to con­trib­ute to a team’s of­fense; they have said Owens is not some­one they’ve dis­cussed, de­spite play­ing the worst of­fense in the NFL.

Is there any­one on earth who can’t see what’s wrong with this pic­ture?

If the Raiders were in the midst of a dy­nasty, or even com­ing off a win­ning sea­son, there would be no need for them to con­sider Owens. Their suc­cess would pro­vide rea­son­able ex­pla­na­tion for such a stance. They, like most of the NFL, could ig­nore him.

But the Raiders have slipped into the habit of per­form­ing poorly. So poorly they have chipped away at the loy­alty of one of the hardi­est fan bases in sports. Frankly, they’re in no po­si­tion to look down upon any­one who could help — es­pe­cially if that some­one is bet­ter than any­one they cur­rently have.

Owens last sea­son caught 55 passes for 829 yards and five touch­downs as a mem­ber of the Buf­falo Bills. This is, by any pre­vi­ous mea­sure, well be­low his stan­dard. The statis­tics he posted at age 36 may in­deed be in­dica­tive of de­cline.

Yet those num­bers were su­pe­rior to any­one in Oak­land. Owens caught more passes and ac­counted for more yards than start­ing wide­outs Louis Mur­phy and Dar­rius Hey­ward-Bey com­bined. Owens equaled their com­bined touch­down out­put and fin­ished with more yards af­ter catch (245) than Mur­phy, Hey­ward-Bey, Chaz Schilens and John­nie Lee Hig­gins com­bined.

Oak­land’s re­ceivers, of course, played un­der the hand­i­cap that was quar­ter­back Ja­Mar­cus Rus­sell. He and back­ups Bruce Grad­kowski and Char­lie Frye posted a cu­mu­la­tive passer rat­ing of 62.

But Buf­falo’s team passer rat­ing, be­hind Ryan Fitz­patrick and Trent Ed­wards, was 71.7.

Both teams fin­ished among the league’s bot­tom 10 in team passer rat­ing.

The Raiders ad­dressed that mat­ter by re­plac­ing Rus­sell with Ja­son Camp­bell. He’s no All-Pro, but the ac­qui­si­tion makes the of­fense bet­ter in ev­ery con­ceiv­able way.

Owens is a com­plete re­ceiver. And I sus­pect, af­ter a sea­son in Amer­ica’s freezer, one of the game’s most noted di­vas has a clearer per­spec­tive about his place and tal­ent. Other than a few point­edly can­did com­ments, he was con­tro­versy-free with the Bills.

Then there is the his­tory. Whether it was Randy Moss or Jerry Rice or An­dre Ri­son or James Lofton or Wil­lie Gault, the Raiders, when com­pet­i­tive, gen­er­ally will con­sider star wide­outs near­ing the end — as long as they have enough game to be pro­duc­tive.

Owens is not the player he was six years ago, nor is he the jack­ass he was in 2004. He is, how­ever, bet­ter than any­one on the Oak­land ros­ter. And he’s a beast in the gym.

The con­cern, of course, is that Owens is a brand-name for locker-room poi­son. He in­fected his first team, the 49ers, and did the same to the Ea­gles and Cow­boys. He had an in­sa­tiable ap­petite for at­ten­tion.

He’s now get­ting that fix else­where. See T.O. at ma­jor ten­nis tour­na­ments sup­port­ing his friend Andy Rod­dick. See T.O. on VH1 as the star of “The T.O. Show.”

Owens is shift­ing into post-ca­reer mode but says he still wants to play foot­ball.

If he is will­ing to con­sider an in­cen­tive-laden con­tract with a team in search of it­self, the Raiders can’t meet with agent Drew Rosen­haus soon enough.

Dean Duprey

Ter­rell Owens caught 55 passes for 829 yards for Buf­falo last sea­son and is avail­able. But Oak­land seems dis­in­ter­ested.

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