A torn ACL is difficult for anyone to overcome. A torn ACL is nearly impossible for a nearly 38-year-old receiver to return from.
Terrell Owens is no ordinary receiver, but he is, however, human like the rest of us. With surgery apparently coming up to repair the ACL tear, the prognosis is that Owens will be out for six months -- putting him on a timetable to return to the NFL no earlier than mid-November. The following month he turns 38 and will be searching for a job, rehabbing his injury and trying to return to form. It's not a likely combination.
It's not out of the realm of possibility, of course, that Owens does come back and play inspiring football. Certainly, the belief that people think you're finished has served as a point of inspiration -- the cliched chip on the old shoulder -- for a myriad of athletes in their return to the top. But with the cold final quarter of the NFL season emerging around the time Owens would come back, his best bet for full strength would be the 2012 season -- one step closer to age 40.
But whether or not Owens comes back, it brings to mind the legacy of the surefire Hall of Famer. Owens is a five-time first team All Pro and six-time Pro Bowler who has continued an incredible level of productivity year after year. He's the model of consistency, tying a current record with 11 consecutive seasons of six touchdowns or more -- sharing company with Marvin Harrison, Jerry Rice, Tim Brown and Cris Carter.
To date, Owens has 1078 receptions for 15,934 receiving yards and 153 touchdowns. Those are remarkable numbers and tell the story of one of the greatest receivers of not only his generation but all-time in the NFL. Even last season on a struggling Cincinnati Bengals team, Owens nearly reached 1,000 yards yet again -- a feat he's already accomplished nine times.
If Owens is finished (or nearly finished), that brings to mind a question: who is the next Terrell Owens in the NFL? Certainly the league already has several elite receivers who are established. Names like Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald quickly come to mind. Randy Moss, Derrick Mason, Hines Ward and Chad Ochocinco/Johnson have already cemented their place among the greats in NFL history with long, productive careers. Others like Greg Jennings and Brandon Marshall are on the cusp of climbing active leader lists.
But fans of the Kansas City Chiefs might have another name in mind: what about Dwayne Bowe? A quick look at the numbers over his first four years yields some interesting comparisons with Owens:
Terrell Owens - 222
Dwayne Bowe - 275
Terrell Owens - 3307
Dwayne Bowe - 3768
Terrell Owens - 30
Dwayne Bowe - 31
Terrell Owens - 79 yards
Dwayne Bowe - 75 yards
Terrell Owens - 14.9
Dwayne Bowe - 13.7
It was in year five that Terrell Owens really came into his own and began to cultivate his yearly place among league leaders, first for the 49ers, then the Eagles and finally the Cowboys. With the ascension of the Chiefs into the upper echelon of the NFL, you can expect Bowe's ability to get open in the end zone to continue. Bowe led the league last year with 15 touchdown receptions and even led his nearest competitor by two, showcasing a chemistry with Matt Cassel in the process.
Now with the growth of targets like Dexter McCluster and Tony Moeaki and the addition of first round selection Jonathan Baldwin, the Chiefs are more loaded in the passing game than ever before. The running attack of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones will obviously continue as the centerpiece of the Chiefs offense, but head coach Todd Haley has more weapons to work with than before -- and opponents have to respect more as well in their defensive planning. That means many of the double teams that Bowe handled will disappear and teams must figure another way to stop him.
With career totals that already place him in the Top 50 active receivers in the NFL, Bowe is just getting started on what should be a very prolific NFL career. Will it be historic? That remains to be seen. But in the possible absence of one of the game's greats, there is now room at the table for another legend to appear.