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NFL's 'bad boys' head back to the field

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NFL's 'bad boys' head back to the field

John Czarnecki / FOXSports.com

After a year of yoga, tenting on faraway beaches — basically, getting away from it all — Ricky Williams was back at work Monday with the Miami Dolphins, hoping to rebuild his NFL career and start collecting a series of fat paychecks.

It is the money and the lifestyle that gnaws on fans everywhere, many believing that they would act differently if they were fortunate enough to have Ricky's skills and guts. Still, when Eagles receiver Terrell Owens said that he could take the heat from the fans for his recent actions, like ripping teammate Donovan McNabb, by saying that long ago people threw stones at Jesus, it made you wonder what he was thinking!

And, remember, when Randy Moss walked off the field with seconds left on the clock, he turned off many of his Minnesota teammates and a lot of fans. His antics, like mooning the Green Bay fans, helped get him traded to Oakland.

Last week, former Seattle receiver Koren Robinson, a first-round pick and a young star, showed up to serve a day in jail for a DUI while smelling of alcohol. He was recently suspended by the NFL for his alcohol abuse. And his recent actions reveal that he doesn't appear to have straightened out his life.

The famous advertising line that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas didn't apply to former offensive lineman Ross Verba, who quit a million-dollar career with the Cleveland Browns this off-season. According to the Vegas newspapers, Verba recently won a few hundred thousand dollars gambling and celebrated by throwing a champagne party. Verba views himself as a star, but he remains unemployed, no team offering him a contract comparable to the one he walked away from in Cleveland.

"He thinks he's as good as Jonathan Ogden or something," a NFL source said of Verba. "He'll find a job when a team or two loses a couple starting linemen in training camp."

And then there's West Virginia cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones, Tennessee's first-round pick, who was arrested for assault and felony vandalism in a Nashville club a week ago. Also, he was with friends who pleaded guilty to being in possession of marijuana. The Titans have responded to these actions by saying that any long-term contract will have language to protect them if Pacman finds himself in any more legal trouble.

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But the long off-season is just about over for these so-called "bad boys" of the game, sending them back to the field, where maybe, just maybe, some positive news will sprout.

The Dolphins were the first to open this 2005 training camp scene and apparently Williams survived. He'll be getting a lot of work until Miami's No. 1 pick, Ronnie Brown, signs a contract.

Over in Philadelphia, Owens has been a daily news happening for months now. Head coach Andy Reid opted to vacation out the country this month, knowing that would guarantee him at least two weeks away from hearing the latest from T.O.

There are no guarantees, but Owens says he will report with other veterans next Monday at Lehigh University outside Bethlehem, Pa. The Eagles, who have held firm in their stance not to pay Owens a single penny more despite his very public demands and threats to hold out, planned to fine their star receiver over $9,000 for every practice he went missing. They also had intentions to recoup some of his signing bonus if he actually went AWOL for a long period.

Nobody seems to know if Terrell Owens will be at training camp on time or not.

Right now, there is no solution for Owens. He has no leverage in contract talks because he's merely in the second year of a long-term deal that could be worth as much as $20 million over its first three seasons. He said he plans to pout and be unhappy in training camp, but no one knows how distracting his actions will be until he actually reports and practices.

Before free agency was implemented, the only option a NFL player had to seek more money was to hold out or become belligerent. It worked for such Hall of Fame players like cornerback Mike Haynes and running back Eric Dickerson. Haynes wouldn't play in New England and ended up a Raider. Dickerson challenged then-Rams coach John Robinson and ended up being traded to Indianapolis.

But unlike some of today's stars, both Haynes and Dickerson were hardly outrageous characters. Today, Haynes works in the NFL office, and Dickerson was respected by his Rams teammates for not crossing the picket line during the 1987 strike when he was losing more money than 10 or 12 of his teammates combined. That's how messed up that old system was.

Owens, who will be 32 in December, could have owned Philadelphia if he hadn't gone on his campaign for more money based on his spectacular 2004 season and miraculous recovery to play and produce on a high level in last season's Super Bowl. But he opted to rip the Eagles for being cheap — this is nothing new — but he came across as an ingrate because the Eagles rescued him from San Francisco, a city and a team that he desperately wanted to leave. Not many teams came calling, but the Eagles delivered on their side of the bargain and this is how T.O. repays them?

Owens, because of his recent history of injuries, wants to capitalize on his stardom now. It's a fair argument from his point of view. But he's actually the third-highest-paid receiver behind Moss and Indianapolis' Marvin Harrison, and that doesn't appear to be a horrible plight. We should all be able to feed our families on that.

The rest of the league wants the Eagles to hold firm on their contract with Owens because the NFL owners hate nothing more than seeing the players run their franchises.

The biggest issue facing Owens is how many teams can actually afford his financial demands? And, if they can, do they believe they can deal with him?

He may want the Falcons, but the Falcons don't want him. His reality is that most teams find it difficult to fit a superstar into their salary cap while mindful that the Eagles don't want to deal and if they do, the asking price might be too exorbitant.

On the flip side of Owens, the Raiders have been happy with Moss thus far. He participated in their golf tournament and showed for every mandatory minicamp practice.

"We didn't expect him to be a problem after we checked into trading for him and he's been fine thus far," said a Raiders source. "You know Randy. He pretty much likes to keep a low profile if he can."

Moss won't be an issue until the games are played; he's never been a great talker with reporters. But how he reacts if the Raiders stumble and lose repeatedly, that will be the story. Like all receivers, Moss feels the game revolves around him and, to be quite honestly, it does. Jerry Rice, Owens, Harrison, they all would say the same thing.

The Owens' saga bears watching, especially if he does report. Moss will be fine in Oakland, while Williams has a lot to prove in Miami and no one is convinced new coach Nick Saban wants to keep Williams around when his first-round pick should be the main runner this season. But, for now, Ricky wants to merely survive camp and prove that he's worth keeping in the NFL.

But at least they all seem headed back to the field, and for now, that might be all we can ask for.

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