The Talk of Fame Network is back with a bang this week. After a month’s hiatus, co-hosts and Hall of Fame voters Ron Borges, Rick Gosselin and Clark Judge celebrated the return of NFL with a lively show featuring Hall of Famers Ozzie Newsome and Andre Tippett as well as a man who may best understand why Terrell Owens failed to attend his own Hall of Fame induction.
Buddy Green coached the mercurial Owens at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga in the 1990s and he returned to campus last weekend to celebrate Owens’ enshrinement in the place where it all began for Owens rather than where it ended – in Canton, Ohio, the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Owens declined to attend the annual induction ceremony, claiming he had been “ostracized’’ by voters who took three years of balloting before he was selected to the Hall of Fame. He was highly critical of those voters, claiming they didn’t reflect the ideals of the Hall of Fame.
Owens became the first and only player to decline to attend his enshrinement but Green said the guy he spoke with last week is the same one he coached more than two decades ago.
“Sometimes people perceive passion as anger,’’ Green explained. “He isn’t angry. He has passion. The day after (losing Super Bowl XXXIX after defying the Philadelphia Eagles’ medical staff and playing on a broken leg) we talked on the phone. He was just crushed. He cried. He cried for a long time. He takes it very personal. He wants to win. He didn’t talk about how he played (catching nine passes and likely being in line to be the game’s MVP had the Eagles won). He talked about not winning.’’
Owens strongly felt he should have been a first ballot Hall of Famer and complained bitterly when he was not. When he finally was elected, he stunned the Hall and the 317 other enshrinees by announcing he would not attend.
It was the kind of mercurial, divisive act that had led the 49ers, Eagles, Cowboys, Bills and Bengals to unload him after run-ins with management, coaches and quite often his quarterbacks. Yet Green told Talk of Fame Network he knows a far different Owens.
“He was first on the field, last to leave,’’ Green said. “He played on our special teams. He wanted to play every snap. He motivated his teammates. That’s the guy I knew at Chattanooga.’’
Ten years ago, former New England Patriots’ linebacker Andre Tippett was inducted into the Hall. He has returned nearly every year since his election to honor both the institution and its newest members. Because of his daughter’s wedding he missed this year’s induction however but held some strong feelings about what Owens missed. In Tippett’s mind it’s an experience that cannot be duplicated elsewhere.
“I know what it stands for,’’ the former all-decade selection said. “I know what it takes to get there. When I first heard it (that Owens might boycott the ceremony) I didn’t believe it. Who in their right mind would miss the biggest honor of your career?
“I feel bad for Terrell, for everyone who coached him, his family. That experience he’ll never be able to capture again. It’s your time.
“In a way I understand (Tippett was eligible for 10 years before being enshrined in 2008). But if you got a message to give, give it in Canton. You missed (out) three times? So what?’’
Tippett said he strongly opposes a suggestion that in the future Hall of Fame nominees be asked to sign an agreement stating if they are elected they will attend. To Tippett “we got to be very careful with…changing the rules for one guy. If he chooses not to be there, so be it. It’s his loss. I’d feel sorry for anyone following that route.’’
Ozzie Newsome gained entry to the Hall for his play as an all-decade tight end with the Cleveland Browns but he could just as easily won entry for his work as general manager of the Baltimore Ravens the past 16 years.
This is Newsome’s final season as GM before moving into semi-retirement after building two Super Bowl teams in Baltimore. When running his first draft for the Ravens in 1996, he selected not one but two future Hall of Famers, tackle Jonathan Ogden and linebacker Ray Lewis. The latter was himself inducted into the Hall of Fame last week and Newsome insisted it didn’t take long for him to see the potential his undersized rookie linebacker possessed.
“The very first game against the Raiders,’’ Newsome said he saw Lewis potential after a game-saving interception. “He had that knack of being in the right place at the right time…Ray was the leader. They followed Ray. That Super Bowl (XXXV) game was one of the best I ever saw a linebacker play.’’
Lewis delivered an emotional 30-minute acceptance speech in Canton in which he roamed the stage like a fiery preacher. By the time he was finished, his newly adorned yellow HOF jacket was drenched with sweat. Ozzie Newsome felt much the same.
“I got a little emotional with Ray,’’ Newsome said. “I had to gather myself. I don’t know why. I know he was coming from the heart.’’
So was Ozzie Newsome when he told the Talk of Fame Network this week what the Hall’s gold jacket meant to him.
“You see that gold jacket it’s something special,’’ Newsome said.
So is this week’s show which also includes Rick stating the Hall of Fame case for another undersized but ferocious linebacker, London Fletcher. Ron adds his “Borges or Bogus’’ segment on the unwise idea of insisting that Hall of Fame semi-finalists be asked to sign an agreement insuring they would attend their induction if elected. There’s all that and more, including Tampa Hall voter Ira Kauffman explaining why he fears Hall finalist John Lynch’s chances for induction may be waning.
To hear the full show you can tune in to your local SB Nation radio network station Wednesday nights from 8-to-10 p.m. Eastern Time or download the free podcast on iTunes or the TuneIn app.