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T.O. should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but . . . .

NFC Wild Card Game: Dallas Cowboys v Seattle Seahawks

SEATTLE - JANUARY 06: Terrell Owens #81 of the Dallas Cowboys stands dejected in the final minutes of the fourth quarter of the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game against the Seattle Seahawks on January 6, 2007 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington. The Seattle Seahawks won the game 21-20. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

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I’ve been asked several times over the past couple of days whether I think receiver Terrell Owens will make it into the Hall of Fame on his first try, five years after his retirement.

The numbers say he should. Second all time in receiving yards, tied for second all time in receiving touchdowns, Owens has been one of the most consistently dominant wideouts in league history.

But the process is hardly objective, and the voters often are influenced by matters unrelated to production -- even though they’re not supposed to consider off-field issues. (We think the rules in that regard should be changed, but no one listens to us.) When it comes to T.O., there have been no off-field issues per se. He never has gotten in trouble with the law, and no one has ever accused him of any wrongdoing. But he has been, at times, a passive-aggressive and divisive presence, criticizing quarterbacks and causing trouble to suit his agenda, whether it’s to get more balls thrown his way (as in Dallas) or whether it’s to get more money (as in Philly). Will that count against him?

One of the Hall of Fame voters raised with us an interesting question last year regarding Owens and Randy Moss, arguing that Moss deserves to wait a year or two because, unlike Owens, Moss has quit on teams and given half-assed efforts on the field. As to Owens, the voter pointed out that he always gave his all, and that T.O. possibly didn’t enjoy the same kind of protection that other temperamental receivers, um, received, including a P.R. staff that anticipated, for example, a potential rant from Jerry Rice and thus got him out of the locker room before reporters showed up to take down whatever Rice may have been inclined to say in the heat of the moment.

That said, both Owens and Moss should and will get in. The question becomes whether the voters will support their inclusion the first or second time they are up for consideration. Limiting their chances could be the fact that they may not have a strong voice in the room on that Saturday before the Super Bowl, given that they played for so many teams -- and burned so many bridges in the cities where they played. Without a zealous and motivated presenter from the ranks of the media, both guys may have to wait a year, or two, before conjuring enough votes.

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