Anquan Boldin isn’t about to call himself “Ocho Uno.” Larry Fitzgerald isn’t going to sit in front of cameras and implore the Cardinals to just give him the damn ball.
The Cardinals’ dynamic duo playfully needle each other about times they may or may not have gotten loud about being ignored in the offense. But neither has the typical reputation of many of the current star NFL wide receivers.
Opinionated. Brash. Cocky. Many wide receivers are insistent on being in the spotlight, and most come across with an attitude that often seems at odds with putting the team first.
The poster child for that kind of wideout — Terrell Owens — visits Arizona today when the Cowboys play the Cardinals. Cincinnati’s Chad Johnson has rarely met an interview he didn’t like. Carolina’s Keyshawn Johnson made it an art form much of his career, while Oakland’s Randy Moss has often been a lightning rod both for what he has said and how he has played.
“I don’t even want all that attention,” Boldin said. “Because sooner or later, that’s gonna backfire on you.”
But such behavior may be the natural state of a wide receiver.
“Our performance is totally dependent on other people,” said former Cowboys star receiver Michael Irvin, himself an attention-grabber when he played. “Sometimes when you are quietly talking and quietly talking and nobody is paying attention, naturally you are going to make an outburst.
“You get six or seven tries to make an impact (in a game). Sometimes, you have to step up and say, ‘I want to make an impact.’ It’s kind of a catch-22. You have to deal with the words, but you want that fella begging for the football.”
With some receivers, however, it goes well beyond looking for more touches.
Owens has brought with him to Dallas many of his typical distractions, including last week’s decision to celebrate a touchdown by pretending to take a nap in the end zone using the ball as a pillow and costing the Cowboys a 15-yard penalty (Owens claimed he didn’t know the rule).
He also complained long and hard about his role in the Dallas offense.
“Everything is being magnified because of who I am, and I understand that,” Owens said.
It worked though. Fitzgerald noted with amazement — and a hint of jealousy — that Owens had 16 passes thrown his way against Carolina two games ago. So Owens is getting his opportunities, although when he dropped a wide-open pass last week that would have gone for a 74-yard touchdown, sympathy wasn’t forthcoming.
“It’s been a transition for both us and him I think,” Cowboys coach Bill Parcells acknowledged.
The Cowboys, though, knew what they were getting. Owens isn’t acting any differently now than when he was in San Francisco or Philadelphia.
The Bengals know what they have in Johnson, whether it’s the time when he started referring to himself as “Ocho Cinco” because he wears No. 85, or this week when Johnson — hacked off because he has yet to have more than six catches or more than 100 yards in a game — fumed “When Christmas comes around, I might as well be a hood ornament.”
The antics play out the same internally as they do with any player. If the team is winning, it’s not a big deal. If a team is losing, it can get ugly.
But for someone like Cardinals cornerback Eric Green, who must cover Owens today, talkative receivers actually inspire him to play harder, because “I don’t want my family seeing ESPN and T.O. or Chad talking about how they dogged me,” Green said.
“Receiver is like being a singer or rapper,” Green added. “It’s entertainment. The spotlight is constantly on you.
“The media is publicity. If you can showcase your talents and add a little something through the media, hey, that’s more to the table for the people out there watching, the ones buying the T.O. jerseys.”
Boldin and Fitzgerald will take a pass. They want to let their numbers do the talking for them, much like Colts teammates Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne have done in Indianapolis.
Even Keyshawn Johnson, who put out the autobiography “Just Give Me the Damn Ball” early in his NFL career, expressed dismay about the current crop of wideouts, saying “They’re going to find the camera and I think it’s ridiculous.”
Irvin, though, said it’s simply an offshoot of receivers saying “Don’t forget about me.”
And for Irvin, that’s the only way you can play the position. If you aren’t talking, you’re not trying.
“Because then you’re telling me you’re scared or you don’t care,” Irvin said. “There is such a thing as too quiet. Quiet mouses don’t eat. You gotta beg for your cheese.”