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Friday Out-Takes

Every Friday, John Cockrell will offer up his perspective on the latest NFL developments that catch his eye. His views are his own, not those of the Patriots.

LT & The Longhorn: A Freaky Friday Out-Take
Are Ricky Williams and LaDainian Tomlinson secretly starring in some sort of NFL-themed "Trading Places" remake?

Remember what a Dennis Rodman-level freak show the now Dalai Lama-ish Ricky Williams used to be, back during that regrettable "Mike Ditka in Dredlocks" Era? How he'd get hurt, pout on the sidelines and offer up bizarrely antisocial locker room interviews, always hiding behind that darkened helmet-visor like some kind of gridiron David Caruso?

Well, this past season, after years of "to play or not to play, that is the question," Ricky got off the pot (so to speak) and back on track, playing nicely with others, like Ronnie Brown, as the wildcat Dolphins roared to a division title. Gaining nearly a thousand yards of total offense, and rave reviews from teammates, the former NFL man-child – Ricky-being-
Manny, minus the accent and the boyish charm – has undergone a makeover that even "The Biggest Loser" contestants could admire (over pound cake, one assumes, five seconds into the season finale wrap-party).

Meanwhile, out West, alleged "classiest man in football," LaDainian Tomlinson, has spent the last few seasons watching – oftentimes literally – his game and his rep sink lower and lower. So low, in fact, that he's dangerously close to being usurped by Darren Sproles, a guy whose quest for the post-game buffet is rumored to require a boost, "deluxe doggy-stairs" or at least a running jump. Tomlinson's recent transgressions stood out initially, in that they were so out of character, but whiny press-conference put-downs and DNP's in big spots have begun to add up.

DISSOLVE TO…the 2007 playoff game in Foxboro. Philip Rivers risks not quite life, but certainly limb (not to mention career), gutting it out on one knee, while Tomlinson broods back on the bench after just a single series. Hiding behind his Darth Visor, LaDainian offers his teammates little more than 3 yards and a cloud. His stony silence shorts them, even on the dust.

The latest, LT-wise – oh, before I forget…can we get that nickname back to its rightful owner? – has the San Diego running back finally redoing his deal, but not before outsourcing PR work to his Mom. In a radio interview during the negotiations, Mama LT complained that the Chargers' opening offer had been tantamount to "crumbs," which begs the question…"Can we have some?" (As well as the more salient, "Why is LT's Mom on the radio?")

To be fair, this is all relative. Tomlinson isn't a criminal, he's not beating up a bar patron or pushing his girlfriend down a flight of stairs, and there are as many gun charges on his resume as there are on mine (or Marvin Harrison's. Ya know…for now). But just because you're not getting busted for drugs or pulled over for a DUI doesn't mean you couldn't use a little rehab.

Noted chick-lit pioneer George Eliot once wrote, "It's never too late to be what you might've been" and she was right. But, LaDainian, it's beginning to look like it might be too late to be what we always assumed you'd be, and that's the next Walter Payton, on and off the field. So take a little advice from the guy you may soon be trading places with:
"To get more out of yourself, you have to expect more out of yourself. Before your body can achieve it, your mind has to perceive it. Now pass me that plate of brownies."

*I have no evidence whatsoever that Ricky Williams said this last part. That's all instinct.

Ifs, Ands or Buts: "T.O. Shuffles off to Buffalo" Edition

IF, upon hearing that Terrell Owens signed with the Buffalo Bills, my impulse was to shamelessly, ahem, borrow from that lame SNL "
REALLY?!" Segment, you'd understand, right? I won't, don't worry, I promise. Let me just say this…

(Quasi-plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery.) T.O. signed with the Bills? The team whose locker room boasts that always dynamite combo of a leadership vacuum and a nucleus of young, impressionable players? I'd ask, "Am I being Punk'd?" but "being Punk'd" is sort of a tired, "been there, done that"-type reference. (Ya know, like "been there, done that.")

Not to paint in broad strokes, but is there a fan base LESS inclined to sit back and "getcha popcorn ready!" than Buffalo's? Your typical apple-cheeked, blue-collar, Tim Russert-ish Bills fan is a grizzled breed of down to Earth, whereas Terrell Owens has only a tenuous grasp of how life works on that particular planet. This has to be the oddest coupling since…God, I'm gonna have to skip right over Marilyn Manson and Evan Rachel Wood, and head straight for the Gold Standard:

Rush Limbaugh and that Chloe girl on 24. Just totally, mind-blowingly strange bedfellows, right? Don't believe me? Phone a friend if need be, fire up the Google, get all Wiki with it. In the meantime, the rest of us'll take some "IFs" out for a spin...

IF you sign a dominating wide receiver, that can have a ripple effect on the rest of the offense, right? So Bills Head Coach Dick Jauron (whoops, almost forgot the requisite "Swampscott's Own" modifier) and QB Trent Edwards must be hyperventilating at the proven production that comes with a guy like T.O. And the other starting wideout, Lee Evans, is no doubt giddy at the fade-to-black he's about to experience in terms of double-teams, right? Right? But…

…doesn't bringing in a potential team-killer like Owens seem not just risky of Ralph Wilson & Co. but pointlessly so? I mean, sure, "Any Given Sunday" and all that, and Hey, the 2008 Dolphins shocked everyone. And how 'bout Arizona – they came THIS close to winning what Santonio Holmes calls the "Dicky Lombardi trophy!" So, yes, IF Owens behaves himself for more than eight games, and IF that young D stays healthy, and IF Trent Edwards can be the effective game-manager we saw flashes of during his first two seasons, then maybe it's worth the gamble. But…

…all things considered – the Jets D developing into a poor man's Ravens, the maturation of the reigning AFC East champs down where A-Roid's cousin lives and, of course, the return of a man named Brady – doesn't the potential risk of T.O. taking his Sharpie & Pom-Pom act to the greater Niagara Falls region far outweigh the likelihood of him overcoming an almost pathological urge to carp at his quarterback while maintaining a 1:1 passes-dropped-to-TDs-scored ratio?

So what's up with bringing in the NFL's version of Dennis the Menace, Mr. Wilson? Is this Step One in an elaborate plan to put some distance between the organization and a rabid fan base prior to the inevitable exodus to points North of the border? Like telling your girlfriend you "need some space" a month before the break-up? Or is it a test of their mettle, to see just how much they're willing to take? That one's doubtful. Bills fans are among the NFL's staunchest; Bills fans, if I may wax Olympic a moment, would medal in mettle. So what are we overlooking?

Well…probably the nose on the end of our face. Terrell Owens has been, and is – warts and all – a talented, tough and productive receiver, and now he's been given another shot at redemption. Buffalo's a team in need of a jolt, and if winning the East is such a pipe dream, what's the harm in going deep? So maybe T.O. to the Bills isn't "Rush Meets Chloe 2.0," after all. Maybe it's a case of Opposites Attract. As for those fans, despite everything – the cold and the snow and all manner of IFs – come September they'll be there, cheering on T.O., butts in the seats, apple-cheeked or otherwise.

Blooper Reel

~ Just when you thought it was safe to stop talking about that whack-job Octo-Mom, along comes former NFL running back and Johnny Appleseed wannabe Travis Henry, AKA "Nona-Dad," to do her one better. According to the New York Times, the ex-Bronco, currently under house-arrest on a drug charge, owes $170,000 in child support to nine different mothers – one for each of his nine children. (Say this, the man is efficient.)

In a statement sure to make the bigwigs in Hallmark's Human Resources division sit up and take notice, Henry came out with this touching card-filler quote: "They've got my blood; I've gotta deal with it." Ladies and gentlemen, your early front-runner for Father of the Year, 2009 – the guy whose cocaine trafficking arrest is his tenth-biggest problem.

~ Whoever winds up with Torry Holt is getting a steal. The soon-to-be-former St. Louis receiver had a down year in 2008 and still caught 60+ balls for nearly 800 yards. In the two seasons prior, Holt had 93 catches for 1189 yards and 93 catches for 1188 yards. You've gotta stretch for that extra yard next time, Torry – I mean, my God, man, try to be consistent! No wonder the Rams are willing to dump you for the NFL equivalent of "one free banjo lesson."

~ And now...a Public Service Announcement for Jay Cutler: Listen. Jay. Maybe I wasn't clear enough last week. I thought I was sort of...obnoxiously clear but, well…it is what it is. (Can I get the copyright on that phrase?) Earlier this week, news broke that you reissued your demand to be moved and that you have been refusing calls from Broncos owner Pat Bowlen. What's next, locking yourself in the bathroom until someone, somewhere "takes that back!" Getting up on a table, Norma Rae-style, and waving a piece of cardboard with "TRADE" scrawled on it?

This is ridiculous. Even people who were initially on your side think that you've crossed over from Sympathetic Millionaire Quarterback to Guy Who Should Be on that A&E Show, INTERVENTION. "Jay, in the last six weeks your behavior has affected me in the following three ways…" Dude. You're a Bronco. A trade at this point would make you look bad. So stop bucking the system, go get with the guy who just transformed a high school QB into an almost all-pro and memorize the following phrase: It Is What It Is. (Check, please!)

~ Earlier this week, despite having no affiliation whatsoever with the Denver Broncos, ex-highly touted Alabama Offensive Tackle Andre Smith continued his downward spiral, to increasingly sad and/or hilarious depths. Following his disastrous (dis)appearance at the Combine, Smith's recent Pro Day didn't exactly reroute that trajectory. In addition to posting a pedestrian 40-time (5.28), the Crimson Tide product managed just 19 bench-press reps, which is only 19 more than I did, and I wasn't even there. Not that it would've mattered – zero is pretty much my average.

This kid's losing money hand over fist, and he doesn't even have the courtesy to lose it like the rest of us (by investing in Citibank). In fact, according to witnesses at the dwindling prospect's Pro Day – maybe we should stop calling it that, "Pro" seems overly generous – the only thing Smith's not losing is the look of a guy who ATE another guy. Note to Andre: More running. Less running with your shirt off. Even for linemen, "outermost Russian nesting doll" is not a good look.
And finally…

My Very Own Real Blooper

Last week I fired off a piece about Plaxico "currently on suspension for shooting himself" Burress, referring to the aimless Giants wideout as, quote, "#18." Funny thing – according to that kick-ass "Friday Out-Takes" graphic on the homepage (Thanks, Chris! You're one of the best in your field, AFC East-wise!), 18 isn't actually Plax's jersey number.

To add insult to self-inflicted injury (self-inflicted injuries are going around, it seems), the mistake occurred in the following context: "That word you're looking for, #18, is 'oops.'" So, bravo, JC – "Nobody's Perfect" gets a close-up, bright and early, as your snarky little column about everyone else's missteps doesn't quite hit its mark. "Oops" indeed.

I'd like to say this misfire was a result of some higher-up's oversight, but if I'm being honest (he said, channeling Simon Cowell), the "oops" is 100% mine. I'm not sure if it speaks more to carelessness, ignorance or my desire to obscure anything related to the completely-impossible-to-ever-completely-get-over Patriots defeat in "The Game That Shall Not Be Mentioned," but:

For the record, Plax's favorite number, other than .40 (caliber Glock) – is 17. In the coming months, Burris's jersey may become more…how to put this…"orange jumpsuit-ish," I guess, at which point we can safely assume that his number will get much, much longer, along with his days. I'll keep you postal. POSTED – I'll keep you posted.

I (sort of) regret the error.

John Cockrell is a screenwriter, whose other work has run the gamut from "Sesame Street Parents Magazine" to Playboy TV's "The Weekend Flash." (He figures everything else is pretty much in-between.)"

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