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Herm Edwards says T.O. 'too hard to manage'

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
I wasn't able to include all of his comments in Tuesday's column about attending voluntary workouts, but ESPN analyst Herm Edwards had plenty to say about Terrell Owens.

Edwards, the former Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets head coach, raved about Owens from a performance perspective.

Edwards justified Owens' absence from the Buffalo Bills offseason conditioning program because the future Hall of Fame receiver always is in immaculate shape. Edwards also predicted Owens will post impressive stats and help the Bills win.

Yet when it came to the idea of Owens missing all voluntary workouts, including organized team activities, Edwards couldn't defend that philosophy, especially when the person it will impact most is third-year quarterback Trent Edwards.

"That's a whole different deal," Edwards said Monday afternoon. "That's why I wouldn't take the guy. If he doesn't come for OTAs, that's 14 practices he's going to miss. He'll be there at minicamp for three or four days. He'll run around and be in shape and they'll throw him some passes, but that hurts the quarterback."

Here's the rest of what Edwards had to say about Owens:

Should Bills fans be upset Owens hasn't attended the offseason conditioning program?

Herm Edwards: You would hope if you're a new player, and you just got traded or somebody picked you up that you would be there. But it ain't something to make a big deal out of, and especially when you get a guy with a big name. There's a fine line.

What will Owens miss by not attending?

HE: This guy is going to be in shape. You don't have to worry about him. He's going to be in shape. Work hard, practice hard, stay late, he's going to do all that. That's not the issue with this guy.

When he walks in there and they go to work, if you're a receiver or a football player, you're going to say "Man, look how this guy works." At the end of it, we can say all that other stuff about the guy, but if you put your numbers up you see this guy is pretty good. Jerry Rice is the one with more numbers than him, but [Owens] is second on the list. You know he's bringing that with him when he comes in there.

You're not going to have to worry about his guy not working. When he shows up, he's flat coming to work.

How does it go over in the locker room, or does a coach hold it against a new player when he doesn't show up for voluntary workouts?

HE: Whenever I took over a football team and we had the first meeting, the first thing I told the players was "Look, it's like in life. I'm going to treat everyone fair, but I don't treat everyone the same." That lets them know "OK, now, everyone ain't the same. There's a pecking order." The players get that. They understand when you tell them that. They see when the veteran guy ain't practicing every day, "Don't worry about that guy. He's been in the league 10 years. He doesn't need as much practice as you do. He's earned his stripes."

Is there a benefit to the team if he's not around and possibly providing a distraction because he's such a lightning rod?

HE: As soon as he shows up on campus, you're going to manage the guy. If he's not around, you're not managing the guy, and that's not bad, especially if you got a young team.

When he does show up, you never know what's going to happen. There's always something. One day in training camp he's going to say "I can't go today." You're going to be talking about that. I promise you. He'll say he has a hamstring or a back because he's 35 right now. He's an older player. You can't wear those guys out because they only got so much in their legs.

What do you think of Owens on a personal level?

HE: When the game gets going, his emotions sometimes get the best of him. But when you look at this guy, aside from the incident where they thought he was trying to kill himself, he hasn't had any problems off the field.

Would you want him on your team?

HE: I wouldn't want him. It's too hard to manage it. It becomes a big problem for a coach. And for Dick [Jauron], you don't marry the guy. Give him a one-year contract.

He looks at his career right now and says "OK, I'm in Buffalo. I already know I'm the star." They never had a figure like that in Buffalo. You think of all the players they ever had up there, all those great players, they never had this guy's personality. But he knows everybody's looking at him right now to see if he's going to light it up or talking about "I need the ball more."

So for you the hassle of constantly managing T.O. would make him unappealing to you as a coach?

HE: I wouldn't want him because it's always dealing with a guy. He's played for some pretty good coaches, and probably what happened to all of them he stayed too long there. It wears you out.

With all of the controversy that has surrounded him and all the teams that proclaimed they didn't want him, would you have thought he'd show up more often to work out with the Bills and make a strong first impression?

HE: There's been a lot of guys get mad at him. He doesn't worry about that too much, I don't think.
You want the guy to be like Jerry Rice. They have the same work ethic, but Jerry Rice is going to show up. This guy ain't going to do that. He's making a statement. "I'm T.O. I'm the star. This is how I do it." This is him saying "I know what it takes for me to get ready." It's sad because you wish the guy was there because he's a new player and he happens to be a receiver, but there's not a whole lot you can do about it.