T.O. Turning Dallas Locker Room Into Fight Club

Things have gone from dysfunctional to mutinous in Dallas. The feud started when Jason Witten’s mistakes doomed Dallas’ late lead in Pittsburgh, then escalated when ESPN gleefully publicized a private meeting between wide receivers Terrell Owens, Roy Williams, and Patrick Crayton and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. At issue: concern that Tony Romo was targeting Witten too often, and even drawing up secret plays to throw to Witten.

Napkin Play
(Terrorist fist jab: The Sporting Blog)

Now, it appears it has come to blows between players; the Fort Worth Star-Telegram is reporting that Owens and Witten, who can probably forget about trading friendship bracelets, had to be restrained in a fight Friday.

One of the most striking aspects of this drama has been ESPN’s aggressively anti-Owens editorial stance. When news of the meeting broke on Thursday, it was the lead item on their “Bottom Line” feature on air, and seemingly the entire duration of that night’s NFL Live program was focused on discrediting Owens. The most bizarre aspect was when Mark Schlereth began taunting T.O. for not having any Super Bowl rings. Yes, Schlereth won two Super Bowls with Denver during his playing career, but certainly it stops being a good idea when a sports network’s on-air analysts start to badger athletes for their behavior in the locker room.

Ed Werder, the ESPN reporter whose name has been attached to many of the leaks, has drawn the ire of many Cowboy fans, and one took it upon himself to express his displeasure with the Worldwide Leader’s coverage of the deepening rift in the locker room. Hilarity ensued (mind the language if you’re at work, though):

The feud goes far beyond the principal parties in the Cowboys’ passing game, though. CB Terence Newman told ESPN’s First Take on Friday that he supports Owens and wants to see him get the ball more. Newman also has a good idea where culpability truly lies, though: the coaches.

“When coaches make mistakes around here, there is nothing said about it,” Newman said. “They just go and usually try to defuse that and try to put that blame on somebody else. That is one thing that’s hurting us as a team, players not owning up to it as well as coaches.”

Later on Friday afternoon, Newman said, “If you preach accountability, I think you should at least adhere to. I wanted to make sure I stated that. If you are going to make sure you have to be accountable for this and that, you have to hold yourself to those standards. If you make a mistake, don’t try to put it on anybody else. Say you made a mistake — ‘That’s my bad’ — and go forward.”

This is all just fantastic news for the Cowboys as they prepare to face the division-leading Giants tomorrow. A win means Dallas is in the driver’s seat for a wild card spot (New York has secured the NFC East title). A loss and their postseason is in serious jeopardy. No pressure, Wade Phillips.