Tough times for T.O.

652848.jpg
AP

Tough times for T.O.

Vernon Davis hauled in the 14-yard pass deftly tucked between defenders over the middle, held on through contact and converted the game-winning touchdown to propel the 49ers to the next round of the playoffs.

It immediately triggered memory recall of Terrell Owens' catch in the 1998 wild-card game that gave San Francisco a win over the Packers, and that was before Davis returned to the sidelines with a face masked in tears, just as T.O. did 13 years earlier.

"The Catch 2," as it has been dubbed, was one of the highest moments of Owens' career, but his mercurial NFL tenure has endured plenty of low points as well. Indeed, two orthogonal forces have been at work throughout Owens' 15-year career: His intense work ethic, and his slightly misconstrued world perspective.

A result of his Type-A personality, the media spotlight has never been too far from No. 81, and most recently it shined on his announcement to return to professional football...albeit indoor football.

Owens, 38, will join the Allen Wranglers of the Indoor Football League. The new gig will earn him somewhere between 250K and 500K.

Payday couldn't come at a more important time for Owens, who -- despite career earnings of over 80 million -- told GQ magazine for their February issue that he is broke. "I hate myself for letting this happen," he says. "I believed that my advisors had my back when they said, 'You take care of the football, and we'll do the rest.' And in the end, they just basically stole from me."

Owens claims his difficult fiscal position is the result of trusting people too much. GQ reports that his financial advisers "put him in a series of risky, highly leveraged ventures. He invested heavily in real estate and lost millions in the crash. His so-called friend siphoned hundreds of thousands of dollars from him. There were the sunk costs tied to the Alabama entertainment complex -- illegal in the state -- that plagued him and others sold on the get-rich-quick scheme (Clinton Portis and Floyd Mayweather among). The final financial thorn in Owens' side more closely resembles a four-pronged Figian brain fork -- each tine representing one of his baby's mothers; Owens pays a total of 178,400 every month in child support."

When people ask where he is, GQ says Owens texts back, "IM IN HELL."

That would all change with one little phone call from agent Drew Rosenhaus. True to his form, Owens has maintained his physique, and he still believes he has a few productive football seasons left.

Toward the end of last year, Owens held a private workout seeking an NFL suitor. None came. "With T.O.," an NFL executive told GQ, "no matter how brilliant he can be on the field, the dark side is always lurking. You don't know which T.O. you're going to get, and no one is comfortable risking that."

Well, the IFL Wranglers are comfortable taking that risk, and you can be sure Owens knows this will be one of his final chances to prove he can still get it done to earn a professional-football-caliber paycheck.

I was a fan before I was a journalist, and my moment with T.O. came at Game 5 of the 2002 World Series. We stood side by side in the Pac Bell tunnel looking out onto Field. He took the time to take a photo and autograph my foam finger, then as we brought it in for the real deal, he said, "Let's do this," nodding to the field.

We did it, for that game at least, as Jeff Kent hit two blasts, Jason Schmidt struck out eight Angels and the Giants took a 3-2 lead in the series. It was a simple interaction, but it was all he needed to do to earn himself a fan for life.

Owens, who is a large reason the Yards after Catch statistic came into existence, should be a no-doubt, first-ballot hall of famer. In NFL history, he is bested only by Jerry Rice in career receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. But there is no denying his career had its fair share of pitfalls.

49ers keep all options open with No. 2 overall pick

49ers keep all options open with No. 2 overall pick

PHOENIX -- If the Cleveland Browns’ only reasonable decision with the top overall pick consists of Myles Garrett or Myles Garrett, the 49ers have considerably more options at No. 2 overall.

After Garrett, the Texas A&M pass-rusher, there appears to be no consensus second-best prospect in the draft. So the 49ers must be open to considering almost anything.

“You got to talk about every option because you never know what will happen,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “You got to be ready for anything somebody will call you on, whether it’s a trade or not. So you got to go through those because they can happen quickly, especially when you get closer to draft day.

“Right now, it’s not necessarily in my mind the No. 2 pick. It’s taking the time to understand the whole pool of people. Who’s going to be available at two? Who’s going to be available halfway through the first round? What are the players you can get in the second and third round? That’s not something that just gets done. You have to watch a lot of tape. You got to listen to your scouts and all the homework they’ve done with the character on these guys and soak it all in for a couple of months.”

Shanahan was on hand Thursday for Stanford’s pro day, during which defensive lineman Solomon Thomas worked out. Thomas is considered a strong candidate to be the No. 2 player off the board.

But does Thomas fit with the 49ers? Under former general manager Trent Baalke, the 49ers invested their top draft picks in Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner in back-to-back years. Would the 49ers consider spending their top pick on another defensive lineman?

“It really doesn’t concern me what we’ve done in the past or what we’re going to do in the future,” Shanahan said. “It’s what we have now. If we think that player can help us and improve us, then that’s what we’ll do. You want to get the best guy possible. There are lots of options open.”

As the 49ers transition to a four-man defensive line, the team is in need or a pass-rusher. Ahmad Brooks tied with Buckner for the team-lead last season with six sacks. In 2015, Brooks and Aaron Lynch tied for tops on the 49ers with 6.5 sacks.

Brooks, 33, enters his 12th NFL season. Shanahan said he believes Thomas (6 foot 3, 273 pounds) is versatile enough to be a pass-rush threat at defensive end in the 49ers’ new scheme.

“I believe so,” Shanahan said. “I believe he can probably line up anywhere he wants. (But I’m) still not done with my research, yet.”

Thomas won the 2017 Morris Trophy, as the Pac-12’s top defensive lineman, as voted on by the conference’s offensive linemen.

49ers visit with free-agent defensive end

49ers visit with free-agent defensive end

PHOENIX – The 49ers had a recent visit with Tampa Bay free-agent defensive end Jacquies Smith, general manager John Lynch confirmed on Sunday.

Smith, 27, sustained a torn right ACL in the Buccaneers’ season opener in September while running down the field on punt coverage against the Atlanta Falcons. The 49ers gave Smith a physical during his visit to Santa Clara. The club has yet to make a contract offer, Lynch said.

"We wanted to get him checked out medically, and we’ll see," Lynch said at the NFL owners meetings.

Smith (6-foot-2, 260 pounds) recorded 6.5 sacks in 2014 and seven sacks in 2015 for the Buccaneers.

After going undrafted in 2012 out of Missouri, Smith signed with Miami. He spent time with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League before landing on the New York Jets’ practice squad. Smith worked his way into the Buccaneers’ defensive-line rotation in ’14 after being claimed off waivers from the Buffalo Bills.

The Buccaneers gave Smith the low tender of $1.797 million as a restricted free agent. Any team can sign Smith to an offer sheet. Tampa Bay would have the right of first refusal but would get no compensation if the team chooses not to match the contract.

With 71 players under contract, the 49ers have $74.5 million in cap space, according to the NFL Players Association.