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The Fantasy Implications Of Terrell Owens’ Torn ACL

Don't cry -- T.O. will be playing football soon enough. Just not as soon as his agent says

Sometimes, athletes get hurt during downtime. I get that.

But it was absolutely stunning to me when news of Terrell Owens’ ACL surgery found the light of day on Sunday night. We’ve all been through similar stories with Kellen Winslow and Aaron Boone and Ben Roethlisberger. But it doesn’t make such a major injury during the sport’s offseason any less surprising.

Owens will become a free agent when the lockout concludes and is almost certainly not going to line up for another play as a Bengal. However, he experienced a career resurrection of sorts with them last year.

He was flat-out awful in Buffalo, but Owens was actually one of fantasy football’s top wide receivers from weeks 4-9 last season. He ended the year with 72 catches, 983 yards and nine touchdowns, which were extremely pleasant outputs — that is, if you had him on your team; if you didn’t, you were probably waiting for your “fluke” prediction to come true and got exceedingly more upset with every big game T.O. turned in.

Don’t forget that he played in essentially just 13 games with the Bengals before a torn meniscus in the same knee that is the focus now shut him down early in week 15 and forced him to go on injured reserve.

Before there were any worries about Owens’ ACL, he was probably considered a deep WR2 or a high-end WR3 in standard leagues. Everyone had pretty much assumed that he would have to settle for another one-year contract, and his value in the fantasy world would largely hinge upon his landing spot. Now those teams that may have been interested in signing him have some serious concerns to mull over. Chief among them: Do we really want to add a 37-year-old T.O. for this season, knowing he probably won’t be useful for more than a month and has a very good chance of missing it entirely?

What’s that?

Drew Rosenhaus says that T.O. can be ready to play by the start of September?! Well, how convenient.

Rosenhaus is just doing his job — pumping up his client. As Owens’ agent, he is assigned to present T.O. in the brightest light possible in order to make him attractive to possible suitors.

In other words, you can’t believe anything Rosenhaus says on this matter.

Frankly, his personal timetable is extremely optimistic at best and recklessly unrealistic at worse. Owens is a physical freak. The dude has a body that would make a human geneticist say “that’s impossible.” But you can’t overlook that age and the nature of his injury.

No matter the fantastic shape that T.O. keeps his body in, he’s not in his physical prime any longer; no one is at 37. His body will not recover as fast as it did at 27. His muscles and repaired ligament will take more time to reach full strength. It would be foolish to expect Owens to come back in August, which, if we are to believe Rosenhaus, would be between four and five months since the surgery date.

Wes Welker’s recovery from his ACL tear in Jan 2010 was amazing enough. At the age of 29, he was ready to go nine months later at the start of the 2010 season. But he was obviously not 100 percent until about halfway through the schedule.

Hell, 22-year-old wide receiver Arrelious Benn just said on Tuesday that he is way ahead of schedule in his ACL rehab, which started seven months ago. But he also said his knee “still needs to heal.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if we read the same kind of encouraging news about Owens’ recovery seven months after his surgery. Of course, we would be in November by then.

If Owens is able to make Rosenhaus’ confidence a reality, he is truly not from this planet. But right now, I have to think T.O. is out for the season. He is off my draft cheat sheet completely. I guarantee he won’t be NFL-ready before November at the absolute earliest. And it’s uncertain as to how much rust he’ll need to shake off once he gets back onto the field and how he’ll work into the offense, wherever that offense is. I don’t want any part of those risks.

Some have openly said that this injury might end Owens’ career, but that’s also preposterous. Like I said and like you can see, the guy is still in great shape. For everything we know about T.O., it would be divergent for him to just up and leave the NFL because of something like this. You better believe he’s going to go out on his terms.

Then, if Owens misses all of next season and makes plans to play in 2012, there will be another big question for those interested teams to answer: Do we want to invest in the infamous malcontent known as 38-year-old Terrell Owens, who has not played football in about 20 months?

I’m sure someone will. It’ll be another small deal for another non-contending team. Buzz will be created, and the popcorn business will soar once again.

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