Buffalo Bills WR Terrell Owens is popular because he's unpopular. His reputation is infamous; he questioned former QB Jeff Garcia's sexuality, he points fingers of blame routinely, and he's had run-ins with coaching staffs on more than one occasion. There's a reason that a player as talented as Owens moves from team to team - much of his reputation is accurate, even if the media takes every word the man utters and twists them to new levels of ridiculous.
Rodney Harrison - he of Charger and Patriot fame, and possessor of multiple Super Bowl rings from his days in New England - will be fondly remembered in league circles as one of the dirtiest players to ever don an NFL uniform. Oh, he was talented; Harrison was a fantastic field general, a vicious, difference-making physical presence, and he was a playmaker, finishing his illustrious career with 34 interceptions and 30.5 sacks.
Let's not pretend that either of these gentlemen are misunderstood. Both are, or were, outstanding, borderline legendary NFL players. Both have serious flaws.
Harrison's flaws continue to show up even after retirement. Why? Unabashedly claiming that putting a bounty on Owens now that he's retired is somehow "fair" - well, as they say, a tiger does not change its stripes.
Here's Harrison's quotes in full, courtesy ESPN.com:
"I'm pumped about T.O. opening up his big mouth about the Patriots. It's fair now. I can actually put a bounty on T.O. if I wanted and not get in any trouble...
"He's a clown. He's all about the circus show and the cameras, and it's all about that. But you best believe he'll have Shawn Springs in his grill and Brandon Meriweather will be putting his helmet down his throat. So I'm excited about seeing that on Monday.
"He's just so, so miserable. He wants to seek so much attention. I don't know. Something happened a long, long [time] ago, before we even knew T.O., that just made him like this. The guy is such a phenomenal talent, but his clown antics and his tactics just take away, year after year.
"The story we should be talking about is the playmaking ability, the big plays and his potential Hall of Fame career."
That's pretty rich. The man who was suspended for knowingly and willingly using HGH, who picked up over $200,000 in fines before 2002, and who was voted the NFL's dirtiest player by his peers in both 2004 and 2006, and again by coaches in 2008, thinks it's amusing to even joke about putting a bounty on another NFL player. Forgive me if my jaw doesn't drop. Forgive me, too, for thinking that there aren't many dumber things one can do in this league, particularly after last year's Baltimore/Pittsburgh bounty fiasco.
Perhaps this all stems from Owens' (along with Freddie Mitchell's) pre-Super Bowl XXXIX taunts of Harrison and the Patriots' secondary. Even though Owens played with an essentially broken leg and caught 9 passes for 122 yards in the performance of a lifetime, you'd think that Harrison might have let it slide, what with his Super Bowl ring and his game-clinching interception.
This isn't a defense of Owens; Owens doesn't need to be defended. Garbage like this is spewed about T.O. on a daily basis, and some of it is deserved - Owens is clearly no angel. (I don't know as I'd call Owens "miserable," though - he seems pretty laid-back to me.)
Putting a bounty on a player (or even joking about it, as Harrison undoubtedly was) - even if one doesn't like said player, and even if one is retired, sees it as "fair," and believes oneself to be beyond reprimand - is disgusting. It certainly doesn't do a ton to dispel the notion that Harrison is one of the dirtiest players in league history. Shouldn't fans be talking about the many positive accomplishments he had on the field? He is, after all, the only player in NFL history to accumulate 30 interceptions and 30 sacks over a career. He was a phenomenal talent, too - but his mouth continues to betray him post-retirement.
It's completely understandable that Harrison, in his first year of retirement, would get riled up by the taken-out-of-context-as-usual comments that Owens made regarding Spygate. The man lived off adrenaline on the football field. It's natural, therefore, that he'd relish seeing some of his Patriots ex-teammates get a shot at hitting Owens, and hitting him hard, on Monday Night Football. His commentary, however, makes him appear both ignorant of his own misgivings and every bit as dirty as his reputation makes him out to be.
Here's the kicker for me: Harrison tells us that we should be talking about Owens the player, and not Owens the act. You can do that, Rodney - you work for NBC. Go ahead; we won't stop you. Maybe you should, however, keep some of your thoughts to yourself - because we, in turn, should be talking about Harrison the player, and not Harrison the head hunter.