Owens fuels controversy, plays race card

OWINGS MILLS -- Terrell Owens poured more verbal gasoline on his blazing feud with the Baltimore Ravens, playing a race card in his explanation for why he refused to play in Baltimore prior to a nullified trade. <br><br> The outspoken Philadelphia Eagles All-Pro wide receiver wrote in his autobiography that highly respected Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome allegedly told his agent that, "He was a black man from Alabama just like T.O.," and that "sometimes a black man's gotta be slapped."

In a Wednesday press conference in Philadelphia, Owens called Newsome's alleged comments an "offensive" racial remark. Owens noted it as a major reason why he wanted out of his trade to Baltimore from the San Francisco 49ers in addition to preferring to play with Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb instead of the Ravens' Kyle Boller. The controversy surrounding Owens hasn't ebbed heading into Sunday's game between Baltimore (4-2) and Philadelphia (6-0).

"Initially, I was kind of stunned by it," Owens said regarding Newsome's alleged statement. "My agent was kind of reluctant to tell me about it at the time. What a lot of people don't know, and I guess I'll let it out now, is that was pretty much one of the main reasons I didn't want to go there.

"Anyone that's smart enough to read the comments, it's offensive. It's not for me to explain. He's the one who said it. Let him explain it."

Owens also criticized Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis heavily in his book, making derogatory mentions of Lewis' murder trial. He repeatedly indicted Lewis' character while ostensibly defending his own mercurial reputation.

"Remember, a fool can have an opinion," Lewis said. "Only a wise man knows how to keep his tongue."

A Hall of Fame tight end with the Cleveland Browns regarded as one of the top talent evaluators in the NFL, Newsome, who like Owens is black, responded Monday to the wide receiver's allegation.
"Please, why should I respond to that," Newsome said. "I did tell T.O. that he should check with the veterans we brought in over the years. I told him to call Rod Woodson, Shannon Sharpe, Michael McCrary and Sam Adams and they will let him know how we treat veterans here."

Ravens coach Brian Billick defended Newsome, the architect of the Ravens' Super Bowl team four years ago and ranked as one of the most influential minorities in sports by Sports Illustrated.
"You know T.O. and you know Ozzie," Billick said. "I don't think you have to say any more than that."

Owens' penchant for bashing the defending AFC North champions dominated conversation at the Ravens' training complex despite attempts to change the subject to football matters.

The strategy of defending Owens, who has caught 34 passes for 596 yards and eight touchdowns, took a back seat to his prolonged dispute with Baltimore. "A man can say anything he wants about me," Lewis said. "My way into heaven doesn't go through Terrell Owens. If he wants to speak about me in his book, let him. That won't get him into heaven. Here's a guy who's going to do his own thing.

"Maybe he serves a different creed, maybe he has a different god, but there's only one God. I will not answer another question about Terrell Owens. I don't understand it at all. I don't play cornerback. I won't be covering Terrell Owens."

Predictably, Owens blamed the media for focusing on his latest controversy even though he co-authored the book and released it for sale in September.

This, from the man who once whipped out a Sharpie to autograph a football after scoring a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks.

Owens once borrowed a San Francisco 49ers cheerleader's pom-poms to celebrate another score. And he danced on the Dallas Cowboys' star before being decked by defensive back George Teague.

"T.O. is a good dude," flamboyant Ravens nickel back Deion Sanders said. "He's a great athlete and a good person. When he signed the ball, I was upset that I didn't think of it first. It was humorous.

"The game needs a little flair, a little drama. The guy is creative. If you don't want him to do it, stop him from getting in the end zone."

Owens was slated to become a free agent after burning his bridges in San Francisco, but a paperwork error by his agent prevented that avenue out and Baltimore traded a second-round draft pick to acquire him.

The players' union filed a grievance with NFL special master Stephen Burbank seeking to have Owens declared a free agent. Before he could issue a ruling expected to go in Owens' favor, the three teams agreed to a settlement brokered by the league management council and union representatives where Owens was traded to Philadelphia. For its trouble, Baltimore only received a fifth-round draft pick and lost the chance to re-sign receiver Marcus Robinson.

In a 26-17 preseason win over Baltimore, Owens caught a touchdown on an 81-yard bomb from McNabb behind cornerback Gary Baxter to open the game. Baxter was incensed at being beaten by Owens, and eventually drew a personal foul for repeatedly yanking his face mask.

"It did make me mad, but I learned from that," said Baxter, who helped limit Owens to three catches for 23 yards last year in a rout over San Francisco. "I'm going back to my old high school motto: Talk with your Riddell and play football."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times and ravensinsider.com


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