An elder Terrell Owens silenced his nagging critics.
After a messy divorce in Philadelphia with the Eagles, the 34-year-old Dallas Cowboy, who hadn't made the Pro Bowl in two years, caught 81 passes for 1,355 yards with 15 touchdowns and was a First-Team All-Pro.
The year was 2007.
From that point forward, the new-age epitome of a media-craving diva wide receiver—someone who coincidentally had the otherworldly talents to back up the arrogant chatter that reverberated from his mouth and emanated from his on-field celebrations—saw his career take a slow but cataclysmic descent into obscurity.
For Owens, after a decade squarely in the limelight, nothing was more foreign than obscurity.
Tap the fast-forward button to today, and Owens is a 39-year-old free agent who hasn't played a down in the NFL since 2010.
In his most recent cry of desperation, which came on an NFL Network appearance (via ProFootballTalk), Owens "identified the Vikings and Chiefs as potential fits, and cited politics and his reputation as reasons for not having a job."
Frankly, Owens' past behavior played an integral role in the creation of said reputation—the one he believes is keeping him out of the league.
Sure, most of his indiscretions occurred more than five years ago, but reputations die hard.
His blunders are many and well-documented yet still worth noting.
After rising to fame and placing himself at the center of controversy with over-the-top touchdown celebrations as a member of the San Francisco 49ers, Owens insinuated that quarterback Jeff Garcia was gay during an interview with Playboy before he left the team in 2004.
Quite the parting shot.
After an amazingly productive campaign with Donovan McNabb and the Philadelphia Eagles that year—one in which Andy Reid's club finally advanced to a Super Bowl after three consecutive NFC title game defeats—Owens and his new superagent Drew Rosenhaus demanded a renegotiated contract.
Let's just say they weren't quiet in their demands.
Later in 2005, after he wasn't granted a restructured deal, Owens was suspended for a fight with teammate Hugh Douglas in the Eagles' locker room that was sparked after the wideout made unbecoming comments about quarterback Donovan McNabb.
When he was cut by the team which had signed him just two years before, Owens inked a contract with the Dallas Cowboys, a team perfectly suited to house his larger-than-life media persona.
Outside of a few complaining tirades focused around more targets and some flamboyant touchdown celebrations, Owens was successful and well-received in Dallas. But he told ESPN he was "blindsided" when he was ultimately released in 2009, which came after his worst statistical season with the Cowboys.
He did go over 1,000 yards with 10 touchdowns during the 2009 campaign, yet there wasn't much of a market for his services.
Owens inked a one-year deal with the Buffalo Bills the same year he starred his in own reality show and launched his own cereal.
The Bills were stuck in NFL purgatory—with an unenviable quarterback situation, a bad offensive line and an average defense.
Like Buffalo, Owens floundered that season, and he appeared to be on his way out of football.
But then the Cincinnati Bengals signed Owens to pair with their equally exuberant wideout Chad Ochocinco, with the idea that better quarterback play from Carson Palmer would create a dynamic one-two punch on the outside.
The ultra-fit Owens caught 72 passes for 983 yards with nine touchdowns in 14 games until he tore a knee ligament which ended his season.
Prior to the 2011 campaign, he had surgery to repair a previously unknown tear to his ACL, a procedure that would keep him off the field until late in the regular season.
After an embarrassingly short stint in the Indoor Football League with the Austin Wranglers, Owens was signed by the Seattle Seahawks in 2012. However, a few preseason drops led to his release.
Really, it's not surprising Owens is unemployed. Actually, it would be more surprising if he plays another NFL down.
As media coverage of the NFL has intensified and become essentially ubiquitous, teams have grown more averse to it. That simple. He made his name by catching passes and touchdowns but also by being the poster boy for a player who constantly garners self-centered and rather distracting media attention.
The funny thing is, Owens, by the numbers, is an absolute lock for the Hall of Fame. Anything less than first ballot would be a shame.
But after spending 10-plus years in his prime doing everything possible to stay media-relevant—with little regard for his teams and teammates—along with his age and recent injury history, it's easy to understand why Terrell Owens isn't on an NFL roster and probably won't be ever again.
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