What has happened?

Terrell Owens (Getty Images)

Two months ago, Terrell Owens was the toast of the town. Now? The star wideout has faded into mediocrity. BFR's Kevin Prise reflects on what has happened to T.O. through seven punchless games...

Back in early August, I wrote about how great it was that the Bills acquired Terrell Owens over the offseason. I claimed that the addition of Owens to the Bills' floundering offense could only energize the team and make for a more dynamic system.

Back to reality. Over the first seven games of this 2009 season, we have seen nothing from the man that warrants a multi-million dollar contract. His statistics are sub-par at best for a player of his caliber— 242 receiving yards and one touchdown. Lee Evans, not Owens, leads the team in catches, receiving yards, and touchdown receptions.

Worst of all, the root of Owens' problem does not appear to lie in the fact that he has lost his physical capabilities. Whenever he has the ball, as rare as it may be, it is always exciting to see the outcome of the play. The man's potential for elusiveness is clearly on display whenever he is running in the open field, and it is apparent to anyone watching that he is one of the best wideouts in league history.

However, the fact of the matter is that Owens looks disinterested half the time. Some plays, it looks like he quits on his route. For his documented history of wanting the ball, Owens simply doesn't give a full effort every time the ball is thrown his way. Sure, he leapt up and snatched the ball out of the air for a key first down on third-and-long against Carolina, but what about the time when Fitzpatrick heaved up a bomb for him? Sure, the ball was a bit underthrown, but if Owens had made a substantial play on the ball, it is not a stretch to argue that he could have came up with the catch. The Bills aren't paying him $6.5 million to do anything less than go out all on every play.

One has to wonder the psychology behind Owens' apparent lack of interest in the team this year. With his clear desire for attention everywhere he goes, as illustrated through his complaints to the media in San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Dallas, we all know that he likes to be the big story. Maybe he feels as if in Buffalo, the smallest market of anywhere he has played pro football, there is nothing he can do to make himself THE story, even though there has been plenty written on him in the national media so far this year.

Maybe he never felt completely invested in having a good season because he never saw potential for the team to succeed. Owens had never before played on a team that would consider merely making the playoffs to be an incredible season, and coming to the Bills must have been a culture shock to him. For all that is written about the great attitude that the members of the organization possess the fact remains that the team has not made the playoffs this decade. That has to have an impact on the collective psyche of the Bills, no matter how much anyone denies it.

As sad as it is to consider the option, maybe it is true that the man is just worn out. There is no question that he has had an incredible career, ranking very high on the all-time record lists that wide receivers worry about. After having to deal with the childhood struggles of being born out of wedlock and being raised by an abusive grandmother, he spent an incredible amount of time and energy on making it through high school, making it to the big leagues, and carving out a solid career. At the age of 35, his body can't be the same as it was while he was in his prime, and the relentless pursuit of the media has to wear him down mentally.

So now, what do we have? Owens is in Buffalo, yes, playing for the Bills, but his impact on the offense has been nowhere close to what was expected at the start of the year. Owens-generated hope and hype has transformed into constant sports talk in Buffalo about whether or not he should be benched. One of the greatest receivers of all-time being benched on a sub-.500 team! What a story that would be.

However, to understand the severe decline in Owens' production, no one can reasonably blame only him. Compared to his previous teams, Owens is dealing with worse quarterbacking, a worse offensive line, and more pressure to perform. If he had been playing for the Patriots or Saints this year, there is no reason to believe that he would not continue to perform on the level that he has in the past. It's just a new situation for him now, and things just aren't working out as Buffalo had hoped.

With nine games left in the season, there is still time for Owens and the Bills' offense to turn things around. The defense, a. k. a. Jairus Byrd, has stolen the team a couple of road wins, and the Bills are not out of the playoff race yet. Owens has yet to completely snap at the coach or the organization, and maybe he has grown out of his severe immaturity. And he has a clean criminal record.

So who says Owens doesn't go on a tear and steal a couple of wins for the Bills? There is no question that he has done it for teams in the past. The potential is there, somewhere inside of him. Nine games is plenty of time to resurrect a season. Even in Buffalo.

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