Owens opens mouth, gives Ravens earful

March 06, 2004|By MIKE PRESTON

NOW THAT THE RAVENS have traded for Pro Bowl wide receiver Terrell Owens, the big question is when do they bring in former Soul Train host Don Cornelius to judge the winner of Ray Lewis' pre-game dance and Owens' flamboyant touchdown celebrations?

Owens is always about drama and controversy. A day after the trade was announced, he was still the topic of conversation around the league yesterday because of comments he allegedly made on his Web site, www.terrellowens.com, which should be called www.knucklehead.com.

"I'm a Raven for now, but not for long," wrote Owens about five hours after the trade. "The deal was set [in Philadelphia] and then the unthinkable happened. Not sure of what Philly was giving in exchange, but I was happy for all of about five minutes."

Owens swore he was going to fight the trade.

"I'll fight this in court if I have to," Owens wrote. "My rights were violated. As far as I'm concerned, I left memories in San Francisco, but my heart is in Philly."

There is no brain. We might one day wish for his mouth to disappear, too.

Within hours of venting, Owens was on the phone with Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome talking about becoming a Raven. Ready or not Baltimore, here he comes T.O., King of Paranoia and Ultimate I Guy, the latest Raven to fly into the cuckoo's nest with players such as Corey "Shoot 'Em Up" Fuller, Orlando "Loose Cannon" Brown, Terrell "Crash" Suggs and running back Jamal Lewis, even though Lewis has gone underground deeper than groundhog Punxsutawney Phil.

The Ravens will have more drama than Law & Order. Who's next, Warren Sapp and Bill Romanowski?

Ever since the Ravens came to Baltimore in 1996, Newsome has talked about bringing in "high-character" players. If he says it one more time, his nose will grow 2 more inches, and they'll be using it for double dutch in downtown Harlem.

The Ravens made a smart move by trading for Owens. They virtually had no other choice if they wanted to become a legitimate Super Bowl contender within that tightening two-year window. There are no immediate impact receivers in the draft. Besides Owens, there were no game-breaking, vertical threats via free agency.

But with Owens' talent, there comes a disruptive attitude, a big mouth and a giant ego. Actually, he fits in with a Baltimore team that has had a lot of suspense lately.

Nearly two months ago, Fuller, a cornerback, exchanged about 20 gunshots with an intruder who came out of the woods at 2 a.m. near his home in Tallahassee, Fla. Suggs, speeding excessively, totaled his cousin's car last December in an accident during a snowstorm, and then admitted he had no clue about driving in the snow.

Last week, Jamal Lewis was indicted on federal drug charges, and only four days ago, former Ravens running back Dameon Deshaun Hunter was charged with kidnapping a Baltimore man who ended up naked and bleeding from a gunshot wound on Cal Ripken's doorstep on Thanksgiving evening.

So, in a sense, Owens is an angel.

What's wrong with a player who cusses out his quarterback and assistant coaches during a game? What's wrong with bringing in the guy who danced on the Dallas Cowboys' logo at midfield, causing a brawl, or grabbed pompoms from a cheerleader to celebrate after a touchdown?

We could certainly use a little excessive celebration around here after having to put up with the Matt and Brian Show, which has needed a road map to find the end zone the past five seasons. Owens had 80 catches for 1,102 yards and nine touchdowns last season in what some considered a down year. The entire Ravens' receiving corps had 85 receptions and nine touchdowns last season.

Owens, a four-time Pro Bowl player, has speed and a great vertical leap. He gives the Ravens' offense a new dimension - a strong, big, physical receiver who can stretch defenses and pull a safety out of the box when teams load up for Jamal Lewis.

But Owens has also been a quitter who can divide a team and possibly a city. He will be a challenge to several of the Ravens' passive offensive assistants. Some Ravens officials have compared the addition of Owens to the acquisition of tight end Shannon Sharpe in the 2000 season.

Oh please, wake up.

Sharpe was a team leader. He had an energy about him that rubbed off on his teammates, much like Ray Lewis. Sharpe has three Super Bowl rings. Owens has none. Sharpe never quit on his team. Owens quit on the 49ers about five minutes into last year's game against the Ravens when he short-armed as pass that he halfheartedly tried to catch with one hand.

But still, the Ravens had to take this gamble. With Jamal Lewis' future in doubt, they had to find someone who could complement him, but also become the featured attraction if the courts don't rule in Lewis' favor. The Ravens can't lose with Owens because they already had the worst passing game in the league last season. With Jim Fassel implementing new elements to the passing game, things can only get better.


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