Lombardi: T.O. his own worst enemy?
Terrell Owens' struggle to find a team is nobody else's fault but his own, and it's unlikely that a slew of teams are interested in the veteran wide receiver, Michael Lombardi writes. More ...
That's despite the possibility of a prolonged holdout from Jackson, who wants a long-term contract and refused to sign his one-year, $3.268 million tender, which the Chargers lowered to $583,000 after the June 15 deadline. Left tackle Marcus McNeill has taken the same stance, possibly leaving the Chargers without two of their top players entering the season.
"They have rights," Smith said. "Unfortunately, it's not good for us to win a championship without our Pro Bowl left tackle and wide receiver. Not every player can get max contracts. The more star players you have, the more difficult it becomes. But it's very difficult to win championships without your best players. Everyone knows that.
"But championships also are won by remarkable people who persevere. I'm not dreaming."
Smith told the Union-Tribune that he believes Jackson and McNeill won't return until Week 10 -- the deadline for them to receive credit for an accrued season. That would make Jackson, who has posted back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons, an unrestricted free agent after 2010.
However, as NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora recently noted, if Jackson doesn't report to the Chargers by at least the day before their fourth preseason game, the team could place him on a "roster exempt" list for three games. So Jackson might have to sign by Week 7 to avoid the possibility of being denied an accrued season.
Jackson also is suspended for the first three games of the 2010 season for violating the NFL's personal-conduct policy. However, that suspension will be considered served even if Jackson misses those games in a contract holdout.
"I don't know if our guys or their agents think A.J. will fold, but my history should tell you something," Smith said. "I won't be telling anything to these two guys; I have nothing to discuss."
Part of that comes from the labor uncertainty facing the NFL. The 2010 season will be uncapped, denying fifth-year pros such as Jackson the opportunity to become unrestricted free agents, which would have happened in a capped year.
"In a normal year, we would be doing contracts," Smith said. "My philosophy has not changed. I want to identify people and keep them. Under normal conditions, maybe we would have signed them. It's a unique year, a difficult year."
It has been a difficult offseason for Owens, who has watched team after team deny interest in him. The mercurial receiver spent the 2009 season with the Buffalo Bills and caught just 55 passes for 829 yards and five touchdowns, some of the lowest numbers of his 14-year NFL career.