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T.O. failed to display leadership

When the Bills signed Terrell Owens, we were told he would be a leader for a young team, a better teammate than we realized, a star who would bring some straight talk and swagger to the locker room.

So I had looked forward to hearing T.O. speak after his first real game as a Bill. And after Monday night's 25-24 loss to the Patriots, a lot of the media were eager to hear what the iconic receiver would say, what comforting words he would offer to his team and fans.

The answer was nothing. Owens pulled the old silent act after Buffalo blew a late 11-point lead in New England. He took a pass. The kind you can't drop.

"You're wasting your time," Owens told a horde of reporters at his locker. "I have nothing to say."

Perhaps T.O. concluded it wasn't in his self-interest to speak. Maybe he had to clear it with those two female advisers, to make certain it didn't compromise his well-crafted public image.

We could only guess how Owens felt about the painful loss, or his own meager contributions to the offense. Maybe he was afraid he might be goaded into griping about the fact that only four balls were thrown in his direction.

Still, it was weak. Owens has sold himself as a personality, a guy who commands people's attention. He got a key to the city. He has his own reality TV show. The reality after Monday's game was that he lacked the decency to stand and face the music after a tough loss.

Leodis McKelvin, the goat, was there to answer questions about his crucial fumble. Donte Whitner was crying, sniffling through his answers. But he was there. Even Aaron Schobel, who is always the first one out the door after games, stopped to take personal blame for not stopping Tom Brady at the end.

Owens? We were wasting our time. What? People are expected to tune into his insipid, self-serving TV show, but talking after a loss is a waste of time?
If you sell yourself as a man of the people, someone with a public forum, you ought to be consistent.

Gee, do you think T.O. would have talked if he had 12 catches, like Randy Moss and Wes Welker? It must have been hard, on a national stage, to be at best the third-best receiver out there.

If Owens had issues with the downfield passing game, he had a point. The Bills never tried to stretch the field. They didn't test the Pats long, or throw medium deep passes down the middle. Alex Van Pelt did a nice job in his first game as coordinator, but he was content to let Trent Edwards work underneath.

The offense was efficient. But 10 of Edwards' 15 completions went to Fred Jackson or the tight ends. Owens and Lee Evans, who earn $15 million a year between them, combined for five catches and 71 yards. Owens had two for 46. The other two throws resulted in a crucial drop and an offensive interference.

Owens was supposed to open things up for other receivers. But Evans had his usual struggles against the Pats: Three catches, 25 yards. Later, Edwards said the Pats had taken away both of his top wideouts.

The Bills must do a better job getting their two stars involved. Evans has now gone 11 regular-season game without a touchdown. He hasn't had a reception of more than 15 yards since Week 12 last season. Still, he didn't utter a peep of complaint. It wasn't the time for it.

This was the time to be a good teammate, a veteran who shows his younger teammates how you act in victory or defeat. When rookies and second-year men are taking the tough questions, when one of your defensive leaders is across the room in tears, a veteran shows how important it is to hang together.

They say Owens is a great teammate. But once the real games began, T.O. wasn't all about the team. He was, as we'd been warned, all about himself.

e-mail:jsullivan@buffnews.com

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