Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

A TO from T.O.

You thought it was plausible. That’s why there was a firestorm of speculation and information when it was reported that Terrell Owens had attempted suicide. Owens is wired different, is a publicity hound, loves the spotlight and appears to have a screw loose. So, taking his own life? I can see that, you thought.

Or perhaps you thought it was a publicity stunt, which most people figured to begin with. Or, very darkly, you thought he was going to do away with himself because of some deep, dark secret that was going to be revealed.

But Owens said none of that is true. Just a mistake, a misunderstanding, a mixture of his supplements and some pain medication put him in an “unresponsive” state, and his publicist called 911. The police report said he admitted to trying to harm himself, but Owens said he was “out of it” and didn’t remember saying that.

“He was taken advantage of,” his publicist, somewhat oddly, said at a press conference in Dallas.

In this era of a 24-hour news cycle, we saw this one develop in front of our eyes. And only because it was Owens did it become big news. If it was Terry Glenn, very little would have been said. But Owens has his own PR machine, like it or not, and he was splattered all over television and the internet for a full 24 hours.

I didn’t buy into the sensationalism of it all, thinking it was, in fact, an allergic reaction, but also wondering if it was a suicide attempt, that getting him help, and not shoving a camera in his face, should have been the first priority. But that’s not what the news business is about these days, and Owens has figured it out.

Maybe he’s telling the truth, maybe he’s not, but either way, he knows exactly what to do once given the opportunity to get his face in front of the public in the most dramatic way. He wanted to hold a press conference in his front yard again, but the Cowboys told him no. So he showed up at the Cowboy facility and was a part of the process of explanation.

Head Coach Bill Parcells didn’t know anything, and told the media just that. But when Owens took the podium, he did so with his own personal support group, including his own publicist. By way of explanation, every NFL team, including the Cowboys, has a PR staff that churns out all kinds of information and publicizes the players every move. So for Owens to bring along his own publicist, is a little out of bounds. But obviously agreed to by the Cowboys.

But have you noticed that the Cowboys have gone from one crisis to another since Owens joined the team? Do you think Parcells will put up with that for long? He refers to Owens as “the player” for now, so can his patience running out be far behind.

Maybe Owens is bipolar. Maybe he’s just kooky or maybe he’s just wired differently from everyone else, leaving us to constantly wonder. But this latest escapade is evidence that no matter what he does, we’ll buy into it.

At least for a while.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Information Management

With some of the new rules the NFL has instituted limiting the access of the media to the teams, the flow of information has been somewhat restricted. As the league moves closer to its own network and their partners, it also is moving closer to an attempt to manage the news and information that comes out of each club.

Most of the changes will have no effect on fans, unless they’re interested in the unvarnished truth about injuries and other assorted things that could have an effect on the outcome of the game.

Reporters are not allowed at practice after the first thirty minutes. Most of that involves stretching and agility drills. That’s why Marcus Stroud’s ankle injury wasn’t revealed until the next day when he didn’t show up for practice at all. The injury is serious enough that Marcus had an MRI on Thursday and he probably won’t play on Sunday against Dallas. If that’s the case, it’ll be the first game Marcus has missed in his five years as a professional.

If you don’t see the kind of coverage of NFL teams on your local television stations league wide throughout the year, that’s because of the league’s new rule barring local photographers from the games. Teams have tried to tiptoe around the rule, allowing a “pool” camera (Channel 4 and Channel 12 are working together this year on this project) but the ability to get the video necessary to do the personality profiles and such is no longer there. Again, a small effect on fans in general, but another piece of information that’s being limited.

Pete Rozelle, the former commissioner, warned against the NFL becoming a “television studio league” but with the development of the NFL Network and the big money, Disney, Fox and GE have given the league to televise the games, the privileges of coverage from an electronic standpoint are going to those who write the biggest checks.

Outside of post-game press conferences, the Jaguars have split Jack Del Rio’s media time between electronic and print. There are a couple of silly justifications given for this. The writers don’t like the answers to their questions being used on TV, and Jack Del Rio doesn’t like his banter with the writers, particularly the beat writer for the local paper, to be recorded on videotape. Yet, the writers are given a transcript of the electronic press conference and the PR staff gathers quotes that are handed out to the media.

While all of this sounds like media whining and carping and its effect on fans is minimal for now, it’s a bad trend for the league. Players are already substantially removed from the fans based on the economics of the pay scale. They’re less and less a part of their communities and more and more a part of a larger “NFL” community.

As teams continue to ask for higher ticket prices and more commitment from local governments to build stadiums and give business breaks, the league should be finding ways to get closer to its fans, not farther away.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Gators Open

It was a big celebration in Gainesville on opening day with the return of the 1996 National Championship team and its coach Steve Spurrier. The air was full of anticipation as the Gators are ranked in the top 10 and thoughts of and SEC title and a run for the National Championship are on the minds of the Gator Nation.

And then they started the game.

Southern Mississippi always has some good athletes, just not enough of them to compete against the elite conference teams. But the Golden Eagles got to work right away, picking off an early Chris Leak pass and taking a 7-0 lead.

Not good.

Florida’s first half was a little tentative and not sharp, but eventually they wore down Southern Miss for a 34-7 win. Even Tim Tebow got in the game and scored a touchdown. But the team seemed tight and stilted, not able to fully display how much talent they have.

It could be that it’s just early in the year or it could be a reflection of the coach. Urban Meyer is a very buttoned up guy, sometimes so buttoned up that it seems he can’t move. And that carries over to his team.

Meyer is confident in his ideas and convictions, sure that what he thinks is right and how much of his “spread” offense will work in the SEC. I still think it looks like a square peg in a round hole when the Gator offense takes the field. Maybe that’ll change over time with different personnel and a different style of quarterback. But Chris Leak is a very solid player and a very coachable guy. If Meyer isn’t willing to take advantage of that, there’s a flaw in his thinking, not in how the players can play.

He did make some adjustments last year, hopefully he’ll have time to do the same this season. Deshawn Wynn’s injury doesn’t help much and even though they’re a heavy favorite, I wouldn’t bet the ranch on the Gators this week. Plus after seeing what Tennessee did to a previously ranked top-10 team, I wouldn’t be looking too far ahead either.

Florida’s got their work cut out for them this year. It’ll also reveal what kind of coach, and guy he is before too long.