Tasker sees T.O. slouching, but not terribly

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

There's a growing sentiment in Western New York that the Buffalo Bills need to send a message to the locker room and the fans by benching Terrell Owens for his lackadaisical play.

The question was posed Monday on Buffalo all-sports radio station WGR, and the callers were in agreement. Owens' drops and halfhearted efforts are hurting the team.

I reached out to Bills legend Steve Tasker on Tuesday to get his take on T.O.

Tasker has unique perspective. He has remained close to the organization and is familiar with how the Bills think and operate. He's a member of the Bills' preseason broadcast booth.

But Tasker doesn't let his relationship with the Bills prejudice his opinions. He is a color commentator for CBS, and called Sunday's game between the Bills and Carolina Panthers.

"There's some times when you could tell he was not interested in being out there," Tasker said. "But I don't think it was prevailing. Maybe a handful of plays. I don't think it's indicative of the effort he's putting in. There are times when his frustration's shown through a little bit, but the guy's still trying to play hard.

"I felt when they signed him he was their best offensive player. I still believe that. The guy gets open down the field. He gets behind people. He's a receiver that needs to get away from the line of scrimmage to be effective. He's not a crossing-route or possession receiver. He's a home-run hitter. I do think he still has some stuff in the tank."

Owens is on pace for his worst season since 1996, when he was a rookie with the San Francisco 49ers. He has 18 receptions for 242 yards and one touchdown.

Owens dropped a couple of passes Sunday and declined to compete on a deep ball that was underthrown.

"You can tell by his body language when he's not going to be involved in the play," Tasker said. "But the guy still is not having any trouble getting open deep. The drops have followed him all throughout his career, and that's always an issue with fans because it's easy to see.

"I don't think that the team has any problem with the way he prepares to play. I don't think the team has any problem with his ability to get separation. They may say something to him about his body language, but there's good reasons for a guy like Terrell Owens to be a little bit frustrated with how things are going in Buffalo on offense."

Tasker said the reasons Buffalo's offense is struggling is lackluster quarterback play and an inexperienced and injury-ravaged offensive line -- not Owens.

"It seems like the last couple of weeks they've regressed on the offensive line," Tasker said. "That's going to spread problems around. Nobody's going to be happy."

Tasker, whose position of record was wide receiver but he made seven Pro Bowls as a special-teamer, wasn't overly concerned with the way Owens has conducted himself on or off the field.

"There's more vocal discontent at the wide receiver position than any other position in football," Tasker said, "because they depend on so many other people to get them the football. It's not unusual for a wide receiver to pout or spout off about not getting the football.

"A lot of guys are frustrated on that offense."