The receiver blames his current unemployment situation on his reputation as a troublemaker – a bad rap he says is unfair. In fact, he feels the criticism was disproved with his agreeable behavior in Buffalo during a disappointing season last year.
“There were a number of times where prior I probably would have reacted, said something I wasn’t supposed to say,” Owens told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “I really had some restraint, very patient.”
Did any owners notice?
“It’s almost like I didn’t play last year,” he lamented.
Owens is clearly sensitive to the coverage he receives in the media.
“They’re always focused on what has happened earlier in my career,” he complained. “It’s not like I can’t play. There is some type of influence that they’re making in the minds of teams and owners and GMs.”
T.O. points out that he’s never been disciplined by the NFL for off-field conduct, unlike other high profile NFL stars. For example, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for six games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
“Some of the golden boys that they kind of highlight throughout the course of the season, those are the guys that are getting in trouble,” Owens said. “Somehow I get lumped into those topics, which blows my mind.
“I’ve never been in any trouble. I know right from wrong. I try to make the right choices and judgments when I’m out in the public.”
Teams may be more wary of his on-the-field judgments, particularly following his one season in Buffalo: 55 catches for 829 yards and five touchdowns. Not helping matters is the uncertainty surrounding the collective bargaining agreement.
“Now they feel like I’m slowing down or I can’t play,” Owens said. “But those numbers can be deceiving.”
He would also like to point out that the Bills’ coaching staff upheaval and offensive line injuries weren’t exactly conducive to offensive domination.
Owens plans to play two or three more seasons, after which his career aspirations include acting and interior design. He was in New York this week promoting his reality show on VH1, which had its second season premiere Sunday.
In the meantime, Owens wants to play for a team that was on the cusp of making or advancing in the playoffs last season. He specifically mentioned Cincinnati, though the Bengals signed Antonio Bryant after meeting with Owens in March, presumably ending their pursuit of other top receivers.
Owens expressed confidence he will be playing somewhere in the NFL when the season begins.
“I feel like I have enough talent to be a starter on any team,” he said. “That’s what’s so frustrating.”