Chris Jones spends his time consumed by trying to find players who can help his teams win football games and working out Terrell Owens one-on-one is a strong indication that Jones believes T.O. could improve the Riders in some way.
Saskatchewan has already taken the investigation of Owens one step further than the Edmonton Eskimos. Esks general manager Brock Sunderland put Owens name on the 45-man negotiation list and then removed it after the 10-day clock had been started. Jones saw the viral video of Owens running a 4.43 40-yard time in June and took advantage of the receiver free of any ties to a CFL team.
Admittedly, the timing was perfect with Jones back in his hometown of South Pittsburg, Tennessee just one day after Owens held his own Pro Football Hall of Fame celebration in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the cities about a 30-minute drive apart.
Turns out Jones and Owens have the same alma mater: the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Both men played for the Mocs football team. Jones was a walk-on who shifted his focus to coaching while Owens starred at the collegiate level in advance of a stellar NFL career.
That connection helped the workout come about, but Jones’ time during the regular season – even on a bye week at home – is valuable: he wouldn’t waste seconds, minutes or hours watching any player individually if there was no chance in his mind the football team could be improved.
There were people around the league who felt the Riders were at the very least intrigued by Owens after the Eskimos dropped him off the neg list. That was validated by the workout and Jones heaping praise on Owens for being in peak physical shape. Everyone in the CFL read those quotes, yet Owens remains out there to be had: as of Friday T.O. was not on the Riders negotiation list.
There could be multiple reasons why the rights to Owens aren’t owned by Saskatchewan. The Riders are confident in feeling no one else in the three-down circuit wants Owens on their neg list. Jones and co. don’t believe Owens is better than the other 45 names currently on their neg list. Perhaps the Riders are waiting until Owens reaches an ideal football conditioning level to consider potentially bringing the 44-year-old pass catcher to Regina. Or it’s possible Owens doesn’t want to sign until Aug. 20 when NFL windows are going to be allowed in CFL contracts.
Leaving Owens available to the other eight teams is risky. The Redblacks slapped quarterback Josh Freeman on their neg list last June after the Montreal Alouettes had worked him out. Clearly, the Als were interested in signing Freeman making him an asset to some degree. In the end, Freeman made it to Montreal without compensation and never played in CFL game, but that’s beside the point. There is a level of intrigue from Saskatchewan in Owens that was enough to arrange the on-field session in Tennessee. Another team could add Owens to see if the Riders would want to deal for him or just out of pure spite.
Since Jones and his staff were hired for the 2016 season, the Riders usually mean business when they decide to put a former NFLers name on the negotiation list. Vince Young Young was added in February 2017 and eventually signed and reported at the age of 35. He had not played in an NFL regular season game since 2011 with the Philadelphia Eagles. The big-name quarterback didn’t make it through training camp with Saskatchewan.
Owens has not played in a professional game since 2010 with the Cincinnati Bengals and he’s 44 years old. But age didn’t deter Jones from Young, though the torn hamstring Young suffered serves as an example as of why football shape is vital.
Whether or not Jones decides to put Owens’ name on the neg list – and the Riders might not need to in order to sign him – it seems the interest is real and it could be nearing the time to get your popcorn ready.