T.O.: Good Cop Bad Cop

It is classic Jerry Jones in that it is classic Good Cop/Bad Cop. The Terrell Owens Story -- which should truly, by now, be a sidebar and not front-page, top-of-page, leading-SportsCenter news -- has the media (and some fans) agog.

T.O. aboard a bicycle seat for one pedals on, with some observers engaging in a tally-up of all the time he's spent in the stationary seat, some observers pondering when exactly he's going to attach a rear wheel to the machine and ride off into the darkness of turmoil, suspension, and a third autobiography that blames the Cowboys for everything.

Those people were not listening when Jerry Jones first came to Dallas. They still didn't listen with Jerry signed Terrell.

To paraphrase Don McLean's "Vincent (Starry Starry Night)'':

They did not listen, they're not listening still Perhaps they never will Mr. Jones knew exactly what he was getting into when he orchestrated the signing of the controversial wide receiver, who is nursing a sore hammy and isn't expected to be ready until ... well, until T.O. proclaims himself ready.

Coach Bill Parcells knows very well that the way he pooh-poohs this latest "controversy'' makes it even more noteworthy. If a Cowboys fan/TheRanchReport.com reader has a bit of spare time, he might review each and every Parcells presser to discover that (as near as I can tell) the coach has yet to refer to Terrell by his name. Never "Terrell.'' Never "Owens.'' Never "T.O.''

Always "the player.'' Or "the kid.''

Does that indicate irritation on the coach's part? Maybe. Hey, Parcells generally seems irritated by everything except fast racehorses and thick steaks. But that doesn't matter.

Is T.O.'s injury "mysterious,'' as some have dubiously termed it? Doubtful. Exactly what would motivate T.O. to jake it? Because he didn't want to play a preseason game in Seattle? In which he'd probably have played one series? Like I say, doubtful. But that doesn't matter.

Is T.O.'s presence on the bike a "middle-finger-flip'' at the idea of practice, as one out-of-town columnist has asserted? Doubtful.

I have often chronicled in this space Owens' problem with authority figures. And Owens' reply this week to the question of whether he's consulted Parcells on all of this -- "Why?" T.O. said. "He's not a doctor'' -- surely comes across as a muscle flex. But Owens is a workaholic. Traditionally, he likes practice. Recognizes he needs it. "Flipping a finger'' at the organization does not serve him. So like I say, doubtful. But that doesn't matter.

None of the alleged "controversy'' matters because none of it qualifies as "controversial'' to the Boss. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has now dealt with these sort of situations for, as he pointed out, "17 years.'' He noted that, "If this were Michael Irvin a few years back, or if this were Emmitt Smith, or if this were Troy Aikman, I think he would have the same amount of attention. I think this would have been one of the top stories of the camp if a player of that stature was not playing."

So yes, to Jones, it's a "story.'' But not a "problem.''

And, my friends, if it ain't a problem to the Boss, it ain't a problem.

An NFL season, as Jerry pointed out, "is a marathon.'' Missed practices in August and hyperbaric chambers in dorm rooms and Lance Armstrong jerseys in California do not preclude a player and his team from succeeding in September and beyond.

Jones -- with 17 years of dealing with preseason contract disputes, Irvin court dates, Deion's baseball schedule, Troy's retirement considerations, Jimmy's disloyalty, assistants getting hired away, rookie busts, and crippling injuries -- recognizes a non-story when he sees one.

And a kid on a bike is a non-story.

"I know it comes with the territory," said T.O. of the scrutiny. "Anything I do is magnified that much more, so I'm fine with it." Luckily, Jerry is fine with it, too. You may remember my initial take on Jones' long-ago interest in the suddenly-interested Owens: I said then that Terrell Owens can work in Dallas because the management here offers the perfect combination of taskmaster parent (Parcells) and cuddly parent (Jones).

Can you name a big-time pro athlete more in need of a father figure than Terrell Eldorado Owens? In Dallas, T.O. gets two daddies.

So let Parcells grumble and offer nonsensical and evasive answers. Let him even be a bit cryptic regarding Owens, if he wishes. That's what Bill does.

And let Jerry Jones embrace and endorse, befriend and defend, cheerlead and just plain lead. That is what Jerry Jones does.

Jerry rejects the idea that he might serve as a liaison between this coach and "the player.'' Jones has experience having tried that during Aikman-Switzer, and it didn't work. He has experience allowing Deion Sanders to serve as a de facto member of the personnel department. That didn't work, either.

But Good Cop/Bad Cop has always worked for Jerry. Some Cowboys watchers might be alarmed by it all: T.O. loving him some T.O., Parcells mumbling about T.O., Jerry protecting T.O. Those people need another Don McLean lyric:

They would not listen, they did not know how. Perhaps they'll listen now.

Listen. Because why they are outraged and amused and I-told-you-so'ing, you can actually be comforted by the way the Cowboys have so far handled the unfolding of Terrell Owens Story.

Because all along, it was factored in to Good Cop Jerry's plan.

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