When it comes to Terrell Owens, the common misperception has been that he's a bad teammate.
The aforementioned—unsubstantiated, force-fed rhetoric that the media has crafted, packaged and shipped to the minds of millions of unsuspecting fans the world over.
Negativity sells as the reality of Owens' positive character continues to get swept under the rug.
"I have really enjoyed working with Sharpie to make a difference for kids with the Sharpie Metallic AUTOgraphs for Education program...I am so glad to have been able to make a difference and now bring the program full circle to impact kids in the Bay Area." -Terrell Owens
The terrible T.O.—creating charity campaigns during the free time he's spent to be arrested zero times over the span of his entire life.
And as the "expert analysts" and fans continue to defame his character without any evidence, one can retrieve direct feedback regarding Owens' character from teammates and coaches on every NFL team he's ever played with.
Most are familiar with the "horror stories" delivered by anonymous sources and ever-subjective members of the mass-media.
Think really hard—how many negative things have you ever heard about Owens coming from the mouths of his actual teammates?
What do they really have to say?
Lets start with former members of the San Francisco 49ers.
Jerry Rice praised Owens as both a competitor and as a teammate.
Question: Where does Terrell rank in terms of all time receivers in your mind?
Rice: You know, I think T.O. is right up there.
What he was able to accomplish on the football field—over 1,000 yards nine times, 15,000 (career) yards or more. And the thing about this guy, I wanted to go to battle with him. If I went into an alley, I wanted him to be next to me because I knew he was going to come out swinging.
He's always going to give one hundred percent and he was very productive on the football field.
Rice is certainly not the only person to feel that way.
Steve Young also praised Owens' greatness in the NFL.
"When Terrell Owens is one that piece of grass, it's amazing, the effort and greatness that he has in him. You cannot say anything negative about Terrell Owens on the field."
But it was more than just Owens' skill set.
It is his character that has been called into question time and time again; only his teammates seem to disagree with those negative sentiments.
"I have mood swings, too. That's part of the game. We're all emotional, and when you want to win, that comes out sometimes...I had no problem with T.O. whatsoever. Personally, I never had a problem with him."
Overlooked has been Owens' contributions as both a friend and teacher.
Greg Lewis spoke highly of Owens as both a teammate and as a person back in 2006 after his departure from the Eagles.
I have talked to him (Owens) on and off this season, not just this week. He was at my wedding in Chicago this off-season.
To me, he's a good person. Some people may try to make it more than it is and might not be willing to deal with him in certain situations. I mean, everybody has his faults. Nobody is perfect. He has been great to me and I don't have anything wrong with him.
...T.O. knows a lot of the ins and outs of the receiving position. He was out there with Jerry Rice in San Francisco, and they had that great coaching staff and they taught him a lot, and he brought that with him when he came here, and he was willing to share that with us.
...Regardless of what else goes on, when he comes on the football field, it's all business and all work. He's one of the best professionals at that position. And to have him at practice every day and to be able to pick his brain, it did nothing but make us better.
Ed Werder's unsubstantiated nonsense aside, members of the Cowboys locker room have defended Owens with vigor.
Jay Ratliff spoke out for Owens becoming a scapegoat in Dallas; saying "I guess he's just the fall guy, I just don't understand it..."
“He will be fine, he’s a competitor, no one wants to win like he does, and the only thing you can blame him for is wanting to win, and so I guess you can blame me for that too.”
“I don’t know, I never understood all the hype and controversy about him being a distraction, because he’s been a great teammate, at least from my experience.” Ratliff continued, “I guess he’s the fall guy, I just don’t understand it, and I don’t know what else to say.”
The entire concept of one man's vocal expressions of honesty being powerful enough to affect professional players' ability to perform the positions that millions of dollars motivate them to master is absurd.
Greg Ellis echoed my same sentiments when he talked about the reality of how players deal with teammates and coaches in the NFL.
“I don’t buy it,” Ellis said. “It may work out that way. I know T.O., played with him and consider him to be a friend. I think it takes more than one person to make it a bad locker room, if you will. And I say that because you’ve got to realize you’re dealing with the NFL.
You’re not dealing with weak-hearted men. You’re dealing with men that are used to coaches in their face cursing them out, saying a lot of bad things to them, a lot of language that you can’t say on the radio. So you’re used to that type of thing.
So I just don’t buy into that any football player can verbally or really physically say one thing or do one thing to another football player to divide the team.”
Anthony Henry said that Owens "kept the locker room together..."; again, varying greatly from the media's portrayal of fabricated reality.
“With him I didn't think that would happen because he's a high-caliber receiver, he scores double-digit touchdowns every year and you ask the guys in the locker room, he's a great teammate to have...That's why looking at things from the outside in, it was a little bit different.
With us, everybody was tight, he kept the locker room together, he had functions at his house, invited everybody over and stuff like that. Even when they interviewed the guys when it happened there in Dallas, they was like, I couldn't believe it. Nobody could really believe it.”
"The whole situation is completely overblown. T.O. was nothing but a great teammate in Dallas. He was a great person for the team, he was a great person for the organization, and he was a great person in the community.
For any teams interested in signing Owens in 2013, it should be noted that he hasn't even been accused of being anything less than a great teammate in over half a decade.
Ryan Fitzpatrick said that it was "nothing but great to have him as a teammate..."
"I really appreciated what Terrell brought to the table," Fitzpatrick said after Wednesday's practice. "He brought a lot of experience, and his work ethic was tremendous.
We didn't ever have any problems, and there were open lines of communication on the sideline. He certainly wasn't shy about suggesting stuff, or letting you know he was open on a play, but that's part of the quarterback-wide receiver relationship.
I can only speak from last year and how things went between me and Terrell, but it was nothing but great for me to have him as a teammate and to have him out there catching passes."
Fitzpatrick is not the only person to feel that way.
I’m ready to Vouch for…and let everyone kno how GREAT of a teammate u were in Buffalo!”
Owens and Chad Johnson were supposed to be distractions in 2010, remember?
Another myth easily disproven when one makes an effort to go straight to the source.
"I really enjoyed playing with (Owens). It was a great relationship when I was there, and I just let coach know I thought he would fit in really well with his style. I think they'll have a lot of success together."
Teams in 2013 may wonder if Owens still has the ability to play in the NFL.
ESPN NFC West blogger Mike Sando reported his observations of Owens in training camp with the Seahawks last season.
"You never see guys this old hardly on an NFL roster playing receiver because they usually can't run. But with T.O. running a 4.45 on Monday and one of the clockings was even 4.43, he obviously can still run.
So in practice today, the DB's are fired up. They've been looking forward to this, to go against a name and he was matched against Richard Sherman who is a very good young corner for the Seahawks, and played at near Pro Bowl level last season, and T.O. went out right away and caught a pass off of him."
The media made a poor attempt to instigate a controversy after the Seahawks released Owens but that too was quickly put to rest after going directly to the source.
Pete Carroll defended Owens' character and praised him as a hard working, studious player every bit capable of still playing in the NFL.
"Anybody that thinks he had an attitude around here or something like that got in the way is wrong, they don't know what they're talking about.
"This guy was great. He did everything we wanted him to do. He practiced hard, he studied hard, he asked questions, he worked hard in the games. He did everything. He was terrific."
That had nothing to do with anything in this whole decision at all. It was the other guys and the way we make up our football team. And we thought that we'd be able to make it with the young guys that we've had through here.
It was harder on the guys who came in late because of all the offseason work that we did.
But he was a terrific competitor and if we had a chance to get him back later in the year, I would not hesitate. Not a bit, I wouldn't hesitate.
Question: Do you think that he could still play in the league?
I have no doubt. I don't think there is any doubt. He's got the competitive makeup to do it. He's physically, beautifully fit for a guy of his years. I'll be surprised if he doesn't wind up in somebody's camp and playing for somebody.
When it's all said and done, it's not difficult to see the reality of the situation.
For every negative thing you've ever heard speculated about Owens, there are droves of teammates happy to attribute their names to quotes dispelling the rumors, accusations and false proclamations.
From the outside looking in, the misinformed may continue to sit back and disagree without any facts to validate their own disbelief.
Yet, the people who really know Owens paint a completely different picture.
Article also featured on: www.blindsidefootball.com.
Ryan Michael is a Senior Writer for Bleacher Report and Featured Writer for www.blindsidefootball.com.
Any questions, comments or professional inquiries can be directed to his email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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