- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 1, 2003

If it isn’t Terrell Owens, it’s David Boston. If it isn’t David Boston, it’s Koren Robinson. And we all know Randy Moss and Keyshawn Johnson, troopers that they are, could wig out at any time. Are there any bigger crybabies/whiners/pains in the posterior — in all of sports — than NFL wide receivers?

Seriously, these guys are such prima donnas, you’d think they played tennis.

Owens is the one in the news this week. During the 49ers’ 35-7 flogging by the Vikings on Sunday, Temperamental T.O. tore into offensive coordinator Greg Knapp on the sideline — presumably because he’s on pace to catch only 100 balls this season. Afterward, he pointed a finger at quarterback Jeff Garcia and said backup Tim Rattay at least “tried to get the ball to me.” Rattay, he went on, even apologized to him for not throwing to him more. The Niners’ high-maintenance wideout seemed to like that.

Last week it was Boston who made the wrong kind of headlines. He got himself suspended by the Chargers for a game for clashing with the team’s strength and conditioning coach, missing a meeting with coach Marty Schottenheimer to discuss the issue and assorted other misdemeanors. David, you see, prefers to tend to his body his own way and reportedly claimed that management had agreed to let him. But his bosses weren’t too keen, apparently, on him being overweight — or skipping rehab sessions for a bruised heel. After giving him a club-record $47million contract in the offseason, they thought they deserved better. Silly them.

The week before it was Robinson who was the knucklehead, missing yet another team meeting in Seattle. As penance, he was held out of the Seahawks’ victory over Arizona. But if he hadn’t acted up, some other receiver probably would have. Wideouts have become the poster children in the NFL for arrested development. Compared to them, opera singers are paragons of maturity.

Here in Washington, we observed such behavior for years from Michael Westbrook — and unlike Owens, Boston and Robinson, he wasn’t even that good a player. If Westbrook wasn’t punching a teammate, he was yanking off his helmet at a key point in a game and drawing a 15-yard penalty. And yet, it was always somebody else’s fault. We just didn’t understand him. Finally, about four seasons too late, the Redskins decided to let some other team understand him.

You don’t see players at other positions carrying on like this. You don’t see quarterbacks, as a rule, acting like such divas — and they do a lot more of the heavy lifting than receivers. You don’t see running backs writing books titled, “Just Give Me the Damn Ball!” But wideouts … talk about your whack jobs.

A quick quiz:

1. Who’s the last college star to spurn the NFL and go to Canada?

2. Which NFL player had his mansion set on fire by his singer girlfriend because she was upset that he hadn’t bought her a pair of sneakers?

3. Which Redskins rookie held out the longest in the last, oh, 20 years?

4. What position did Deion Sanders want to play later in his career?


1. Rocket Ismail, a wide receiver.

2. Andre Rison, a wide receiver.

3. Desmond Howard, a wide receiver.

4. Could it be … wide receiver?

It all started, I suppose, in the ‘50s, when offenses began splitting out their ends, separating them from the rest of the line. It was only a matter of time before wide receivers thought of themselves as individual entities, independent contractors, Men Apart.

What’s made the situation worse is that the NFL has fed this monster, coddled receivers almost as much as it has coddled quarterbacks. Bump-and-run pass coverage was reduced to a single bump. The clothesline tackle was outlawed. And nowadays wideouts can wear tacky gloves to help them hang onto the ball. (Never mind all the pick plays teams get away with.)

If only these guys could spend a couple of weeks in 1977 — when the leading receiver in the NFC, Ahmad Rashad, caught a grand total of 51 passes (and got paid, just guessing, $200,000 for his trouble). Then they might stop bellyaching and realize how good they have it.

Instead we’ve got Jimmy Smith, he of the 664 career receptions, sitting out Jacksonville’s first four games after testing positive for drugs. Instead we’ve got Terry Glenn’s weekly dramas in New England awhile back. Hardly a week goes by, it seems, that a stuck-on-himself wideout doesn’t kick up some kind of fuss.

“He just expects a lot,” 49ers linebacker Jamie Winborn says of Owens. “He wants everybody to care passionately like he does.”

Says Chargers fullback Lorenzo Neal of Boston: “David’s not a bad guy. He’s a guy who wants to win.”

Oh, please.

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