Terrell Owens punks Stephen A. Smith, announces he will be ready to return to the NFL “soon”

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It was an episode of “Punk’d” that would’ve made Ashton Kutcher proud; a “not” joke even Borat would understand. NFL free agent wide receiver Terrell Owens requested that his family be present when he sat down with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith. It was clear T.O had some important news for Smith, ESPN and the NFL.

Smith introduces them one-by-one. From left-to-right, Terrell Owens and his mother, brother and sister. Why then, Smith asks, did T.O. want his family present.

It has been a tough year since he left Cincinnatti, T.O. says. He suffered a meniscus tear and then later tore his Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL). But, his family has always supported him even through personal problems and even though their relationship has not always been solid.

The T.O. sitting down with Stephen A. Smith is a different T.O. than NFL fans have witnessed during the past 15 years; less cocky, more serence – reflective even.

Terrell OwensFrom San Francisco to Philadelphia, then Dallas to Buffalo and Cincinnati, T.O. has been one of the most productive wide receivers in the past 15 years. But when it comes to team chemistry, he has also been one of the more destructive. Heck, Skip Bayless refers to him as Team Obliterator.

“Today, I want [my family] to be here because I want to call it quits,” T.O. tells Smith. “I want to retire.”

“When did you reach the decision to retire,” Smith asks. “I’m going to ask your family in a minute, but I want to hear from you first.”

T.O. explains how he isn’t a quitter; he’s never been one to walk away from anything. But, he wanted to go out on his own terms. Naturally, Smith responds by asking T.O. if he feels like he is quitting.

It’s at this moment that Smith is completely hooked. He’s in the midst of an interview with a future Hall-of-Famer who is announcing his retirement. For any reporter, this is huge. Unfortunately for Smith, T.O. isn’t quite finished.

“I wish today was April 1, because it’d be April Fools and I got you,” T.O. says. “I’m not retiring!”

At 37-years-old, T.O. is intent on making a comeback in the NFL. Fresh off a season with the Bengals in which he started just 11 games but caught 72 passes, including 9 touchdowns, and came up 17 yards shy of 1,000 yards receiving, T.O. can still be a productive receiver in the NFL – especially considering the rules in place to protect offensive players.

After T.O. shocked Smith by not announcing his retirement, T.O. said he would be ready to return to the NFL “soon.” That wasn’t good enough.

Smith prodded, “what does soon mean?” T.O. responded, “I’ll say…I’ll give you a month or less. A month or less.”

T.O. burst onto the scene in 1997, his second year with the San Francisco 49ers. Jerry Rice went down with a torn ACL and the third-round pick out of Tennessee stepped in and delivered. T.O. racked up 936 yards receiving and hauled in eight touchdowns. In 1998, T.O. cracked the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the first time and totalled 15 touchdowns – one rushing. It was only year three, but the T.O. was already filling out his Hall of Fame resume.

In 15 seasons, eight with the 49ers, two with the Eagles, three with the Dallas Cowboys and one each with the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals, T.O. has 1,078 receptions, 15,934 yards receiving and 153 receiving touchdowns – 156 total. He is the only player in NFL history to score not one, but two touchdowns against all 32 NFL teams. He is the fifth player to reach 150 touchdowns, the sixth to reach 1,000 career receptions and the third with both 150 touchdowns and 1,000 receptions.Terrell Owens with the Cowboys in 2007

It’s evident T.O. will eventually be enshrined in Canton, but that doesn’t necessarily mean teams will be clamoring to sign the veteran free agent who will turn 38 in December.

T.O. recently underwent stem cell treatment in South Korea and claims to be at 75 percent following rehab and treatment for his knee injuries. But, even though T.O. expressed a desire to do whatever it takes to get himself healthy and back on the field, teams may be hesistant to fully buy in to the notion that he can fully recover in less than a year. To make matters worse, T.O. doesn’t have the best reputation around the league.

He has been fined numerous times for excessive celebrations following touchdowns, including autographing a football in Seattle following a touchdown, mocking Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis’ pregame dance and mocking Patiots coach Bill Belichick following Spygate among many, many others.

Not only has T.O. caused problems on the field, he has stirred up controversy off the field as well. He once got in to a locker-room fight with former Eagles defensive end Hugh Douglas in 2005. Later that same year, T.O. publicly stated that the Eagles would be undefeated if Brett Favre was the team’s quarterback and not Donovan McNabb. In Dallas, T.O. criticized former head coach Bill Parcells by saying he learned “nothing, really” during his one-year under the tutelage of one of the NFL’s strictest coaches. He had a suicide scare in 2006 and was once filmed doing push-ups and sit-ups on his front lawn in front of reporters.

Regardless of whether multiple teams line up for T.O.’s services or just one team, he’s almost certain to be back in the NFL before the season ends. Therefore, in typical T.O. fashion, he grabbed the spotlight to alert current NFL general managers he would soon be ready.

“They going to get the T.O. that they expect,” T.O. said emphatically. “Don’t expect anything less. I’m not going to waste your time so don’t waste my time. When I step on the field, you know what you’re going to get.”

If his words ring true, one NFL team can expect to get a gifted, future first-ballot Hall-of-Famer who comes with just a little bit of baggage.

Photos courtesy Tammy Ferrufino via Wikimedia Commons and suzismini via Flickr. Video courtesy ESPN via YouTube.

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