By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
Having gone from one of the brightest stars in the NFL to an aging sideshow in the backyard Indoor Football League, Terrell Owens has worn out his welcome in more than a few stops along the way.
But those who tired of his act in his latest stop believe that the wide receiver might have one final, glorious run in his 38-year-old legs.
Tommy Benizio, team president of the IFL franchise that released Owens in May, said he expects the former star to be back in a lead role now that he’s returned to the NFL.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that he still has what it takes to make it at the NFL level,” said Benizio, whose Allen (Texas) Wranglers of the IFL paid Owens a modest salary for five months before unceremoniously letting him go in late May. “I think he’s grown, and he’ll be a tremendous addition (for the Seattle Seahawks, who signed Owens this week).
“When someone thinks he’s truly hit rock bottom, and God blesses him with another chance, I think he’s going to embrace it with a greater level of enthusiasm. I think he’s going to perform at a high level.”
Time will tell how Owens’ tenure in Seattle will be remembered, but it’s pretty clear that his stint in the IFL fell flat. The Wranglers signed him in late December, hoping Owens would boost attendance and help market the league, and yet he didn’t even make it through a single season.
“I think our expectations were tremendously high,” Benizio said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon, “so it made it easy for us to be disappointed when we weren’t selling out games and having an undefeated season and doing all the things we talked about.
“Suddenly, it wasn’t a good fit. But I’ve got nothing bad to say. The guy was good in a lot of ways.”
Benizio cited work ethic as a big reason why the relationship didn’t work out, yet he didn’t necessarily blame Owens for playing down to the competition.
“When he put his heart into it,” Benizio said, “he was unquestionably the greatest athlete to ever set foot on our field. That’s if his heart was into it. But I think he was discouraged here. There was something discouraging about playing here, and not being in the NFL, and I don’t think the effort was always there.”
That, Benizio added, won’t be a problem for Owens now that he’s back in the NFL.
“I get the sense that this really means something to him,” Benizio said. “He probably questioned whether he would be in the NFL again, and I sense that he’ll be all in now that he’s made it back.”
Despite parting ways on bad terms — Owens reportedly considered suing the Wranglers for a while but did not go through with it — the latest team to tire of T.O.’s act is actually hoping that the receiver’s career ends on a high note.
“I don’t want to sit here and say that I’m a fan of his — not that I am, or that I’m not,” Benizio said Tuesday. “I just sense that he sees an opportunity here, and I truly hope to see him succeed. We’re rooting for him here.”