Finishing a week of heavy T.O. fallout

With a simple stroke of a pen this week, Terrell Owens shook up the football world and changed NFL policy. And, after a San Francisco newspaper quoted him as implying race was a factor in media coverage of his Monday night touchdown celebration, the Niners' star receiver entered this weekend attempting to settle down and smooth over the issue.

He'll also have a $5,000 fine to pay - but not for taking a Sharpie marker out of his sock, signing the football and giving it to a friend in the stands after scoring the winning touchdown in Monday's 28-21 win over the Seattle Seahawks. Owens was only warned for that incident. He was fined for having his jersey untucked. Owens called that fine "nonsense. ... a very nitpicky thing. I constantly tucked it in throughout the course of the game, and people were tugging on me, and it just came out."

That obviously was some kind of after-the-fact slap on the wrist for Owens' impromptu actions on Monday. But due to that incident, the league has made it clear it won't be lenient if the same thing happens again. The NFL has sent a memo to each of its 32 teams which says that players carrying foreign objects with them onto the field will face a 15-yard penalty and possible ejection from the game.

"We sent a memo to the clubs clarifying that a player possessing a foreign object - an object not part of the uniform - is subject to a 15-yard penalty," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. "If the referee deems the object to be a safety hazard, the player will be ejected from the game. An object such as a pen will be considered a safety hazard."

Call it the T.O. Rule. The league decided it couldn't do anything to Owens for doing something pretty much harmless, but it doesn't want any repeat of the incident. Owens, infamous for his celebrating on the Dallas Cowboys' midfield logo at Texas Stadium in 2000, will have to come up with something else unique for his next touchdown trick - without any props. Be sure that he will.

He also responded Friday to some outcry over comments he made this week that expressed racial overtones. This is Owens' statement - released by the 49ers - regarding that issue:

"This is not a racial issue. It's about perception. I am a target because of who I am and what I have done in the past. It seems like everything I do is taken to another level. People have the misconception about me that I am angry all the time or that I am a bad guy. When you see me celebrate, I don't dance with a scowl or frown. I am happy. I am happy because I am doing what I expect to do for our team to be successful. Football is an emotional game and I like to have fun."

And T.O. learned the this week the public price he sometimes must pay for such fun.

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