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Friday, September 29
Updated: October 2, 11:27 AM ET
Owens' act no cause for celebration

By John Clayton

Terrell Owens did more than just make a stupid celebration on the star at the middle of Texas Stadium. He may have killed the chance for any player to express individuality after a great play.

Terrell Owens
Terrell Owens was interfered with here; he may be messing with other players' right to have a little fun.

Way to go, T.O. You just gave those who want a "No Fun League" the license to throw penalty flags if Jamal Anderson does the Dirty Bird or if the Rams do virtually any kind of posed celebration.

Jerry Seeman, the league's senior director of officiating, ordered crews to enforce 15-yard penalties on Owens-like idiocy. That's understandable. Owens' second venture to the middle of the field incited a near riot. It was fortunate no one was hurt except Owens' ego after he was suspended a week by the 49ers for the act.

At the NFL owners meeting in March, Vikings coach Dennis Green, as right on in his predictions as he was making Daunte Culpepper his quarterback, forecast that a continuation of orchestrated end zone celebrations would lead to an ugly fight. Many, like myself, questioned that.

Nobody, we thought, would be so stupid to draw the wrath of an entire team. Celebrations such as the Dirty Bird, the Bob and Weave and others were harmless. They were fun. Maybe there was some jealousy because some members of the Competition Committee were victimized by the Rams and their post-touchdown celebrations.

Well, the Competition Committee turned out to be right, because there is a line to be drawn on what is considered celebration and what is considered taunting. Standing in front of a sellout crowd and doing a celebration on a team logo obviously crosses the line.

It crosses the line because no longtime NFL traditionalist faults Cowboys safety George Teague for charging Owens after the second midfield celebration. Teague may be his highest for popularity for this incident and rightfully so.

The Cowboys are a proud franchise and believe the heavens look favorably to them through their open roof and use the star as a landmark. Imagine if Teague and his entire team ignored the incident. Cowboys alumni would rip this squad as a bunch of ingrates who didn't care about the history of his franchise.

It would be the same as an offensive lineman not confront a defensive player following a blatant cheap shot on his quarterback or an infielder or catcher not stopping a batter charging the mound to assault a pitcher.

Football shouldn't come down to this, but it's a macho sport with physical realities. That's where Owens crossed the line: he mandated a response by the Cowboys. That's taunting to the worst degree.

And that's why I worry about how his actions will influence this weekend's games and those throughout the rest of the season. Officials will have itchy flag fingers at the mere hint of a taunt. Owens moved made the line tighter because the league knows that a quick flag to Owens last week may have defused some of the tension.

Billy "White Shoes" Johnson was one of the masters of the professional way to celebrate. His legs swiveled and rocked after he scored a touchdown, but no one misinterpreted his actions as taunting.

Why? Because he was too smart -- also his body was too small -- to incite the anger of his opponents.

  First of all, I never talked on the field. I never was one to go out and showcase to belittle someone. If you watched me dance, I never was in anyone's face. I was always away from the field on a corner and facing the fans. I never pointed to anyone and never slammed the ball. That's why I know mine wasn't taken personally.  ”
—  Billy "White Shoes" Johnson

"First of all, I never talked on the field," said Johnson, who works in the Falcons front office. "I never was one to go out and showcase to belittle someone. If you watched me dance, I never was in anyone's face. I was always away from the field on a corner and facing the fans. I never pointed to anyone and never slammed the ball.

"That's why I know mine wasn't taken personally."

Through the years, Johnson has watched dances and celebrations come and go. He loved the Ickey Shuffle. Jamal Anderson's Dirty Bird, in his opinion, was tastefully done because it was between the player and the fans, not pointing or taunting to the opponents.

"When you get four or five guys congregating together, that causes more problems," Johnson said.

Still, he joined the many who enjoyed the Fun Bunch celebrations of the Redskins receivers, but then Cowboys defensive players tried to break it up, the celebration became slightly dangerous. He enjoyed Harold Carmichael's old Tumbling Dice routine in which players gathered in a circle and the scorer would spin the football like a gambler would roll dice.

"If the league completely banishes everything, that would be going completely overboard," Johnson said. "That's what kids like -- as long as the guidelines are part of it."

For a barometer this weekend, watch the Rams-Chargers game. This week, five Rams, including receivers Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt and Az-Zahir Hakim, each received $5,000 fine letters for doing their Duck-Down, the replacement for the Bob and Weave. Last year, the Rams did the Bob and Weave, where they circled and shouted things like "Got to go to work," in respect to some of Muhammad Ali's old tactics.

The Rams circled together and didn't stare or point at opponents. The Duck-Down, which is similar to Andre Rison's Spiderman, could be flagged even if only one player does it.

That loss is more substantial than the $24,000 coming out of Owens' pocket. It's taking a fun element out of the game.

Clayton's quick hits

  • Talk about motivation. Rams coach Mike Martz is dangling a week off to his players if they beat the Chargers Sunday to go 5-0. The timing couldn't be better. The Rams have been performing offensively at such a high level that they need the chance to recharge their batteries. The legs of defensive players are so sore from five games on artificial turf that they need a rest.

  • At a quick meeting last Tuesday, commissioner Paul Tagliabue told owners, particularly those pushing for suspensions, that he will resolve the 49ers and Broncos salary cap violations in the next week. He tipped his hand, though, when he mentioned that the maximum individual fine is $250,000, which is the likely penalty for former 49ers execs Carmen Policy and Dwight Clark. It's unlikely that any suspension will be levied and it's also possible the Broncos may escape without a major penalty.

  • Vikings owner Red McCombs isn't dumb. He signed coach Dennis Green to a $3 million a year extension because he knows that Green made the right decision on quarterback Daunte Culpepper -- and it keeps the core group of the team together.

    Randy Moss will be up for a massive contract extension after the season and wants to stay because of Green. Green's return for five years should prevent Cris Carter from retiring after the season.

    The big question is whether there is enough cap rooms to extend the contract linebacker Dwayne Rudd, wide receiver Matthew Hatchette, halfback Robert Smith and a few others considering the big number expected for Moss, who is an unrestricted free agent in 2002.

  • The Dolphins expect a big reinforcement to their offense for the Oct. 23 game. O.J. McDuffie, their go-to receiver, is on pace to return after the Oct. 15 bye week from the physically unable to perform list. By then, the Dolphins expect to have Tony Martin, who has missed three games, and McDuffie as their starting receivers. The key is getting to the bye week with a 5-1 record.

  • Don't put much into the thoughts that Bengals general manager Mike Brown talked to linebacker coach Mark Duffner before naming Dick LeBeau as head coach. Though Duffner has head coaching experience in college, LeBeau, 63, was natural interim coach and his loyalty to the Bengals earned him the chance for a head coaching job.

    Still, no one, including Bruce Coslett, can succeed unless improvements are made on the offensive and defensive lines. Coslett, in fact, regretted not trading with the Saints two years ago to acquire more draft choices in the Ricky Williams' deal.

  • It's likely that Brown may head Coslett's suggestion and trade down in the first round next spring for a bundle of draft choices.

  • Lost in the shuffle of last week's exciting victory over the Bucs is how the Jets took away the uniform of veteran wide receiver Vincent Brisby. Apparently, the Jets, who tried to groom Brisby as the third receiver, felt he wasn't getting off the line of scrimmage quick enough. Plus, rookie Laveranues Coles made rapid improvement before the bye week to look up the third spot for now.

  • As an exercise to correct a Ricky Williams fumbling problem, Saints coach Jim Haslett had defensive players grabbing at the football until he literally brought it back to the huddle. Williams has had fumbling problems in college and as an NFL rookie. The exercise apparently worked because he didn't have many fumbles during the week. The coaches figure it is more concentration than it is his small hands.

  • The NFL continues to strategize about extending the collective bargaining agreement. When the league meets with players before the end of the year, there is a good likelihood a deal can be worked out. With most sides agreeing that the free agency system works, there are only expected to be minor changes. With that in mind, the Players Association is planning to stress safety issues because of the mounting number of injuries.

    And finally

  • Teague was indeed fined -- probably $5,000 -- for hitting Owens, but he and safety Darren Woodson were given an additional fine for being late for a postgame meeting. There was an impromptu, mandatory team meeting after the game, and because Teague and Woodson were ejected from last Sunday's 49ers game, they didn't get the word.

    Emmitt Smith also was fined by the Cowboys for spiking the ball on the Cowboys star.

    John Clayton is the senior NFL writer for

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