Where's the love for Atogwe?

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:00 AM ET

By rights, O.J. Atogwe should be celebrating the fact that he is among the best compensated Canadian athletes ever to play professional sports.

Instead, the Windsor native and former St. Louis Rams safety is in a rare state of limbo, an unrestricted free agent who can't get a date.

A year after being designated the Rams' franchise player and "settling" for $6.34 million US, Atogwe was in line for a raise and a multi-year deal.

There also was a chance that the ball-hawking defensive back could escape the football purgatory that has been the Rams through most of his five-year career.

But rather than suitors knocking down his door, Atogwe is barely getting a look, with a half dozen teams passing on the proven gamebreaker.

That puts St. Louis back in the picture and the Canadian perhaps being forced into getting nowhere near the money he had expected.

"Our hope all along was to try and get a deal done with O.J. to keep him on the Rams," St. Louis coach Steve Spag-nuolo said Wednesday. "We want him to stay here, and I think he wants to be here."

The lack of interest in Atogwe is curious, to say the least. There are potential injury issues -- he was placed on IR in December with a dislocated shoulder -- and also has had groin problems.

More likely is the suspicion that owners are reluctant to lock-in to lucrative, long-term deals given the potential labour uncertainty beyond this season.

"We are a better team with him here," Rams general manager Billy Devaney said. "Our hope is that after he tests the market, he will come back to us. We're trying to get to a happy medium."

In this case, let's assume "happy medium" translates to "deep discount."

QUITTIN' TIME

On Tuesday, Dallas quarterback Tony Romo was in contention to qualify for next week's U.S. Open, just four shots behind leader Casey Clendenon after 18 holes in the 36-hole final qualifier.

After a couple of rain delays early in the second 18, Romo withdrew, however, saying he had to rejoin his team for practice.

"It's exciting, it's fun to teach yourself lessons on the golf course about sports in general," Romo said earnestly. "I took away a few things that I'm going to use in football, so that's a positive in that respect."

Left unsaid is that a quadruple bogey to start that second round essentially took him out of the running for a trip to Pebble Beach. So might that lesson be: Quit when you are too far behind?

TIME OUT FOR T.O.?

When Terrell Owens (still without a contract and a team for 2010) showed up in Nashville this past weekend, Music City was abuzz. Titans fans had to take a pill, however, when it was learned T.O. was merely in town for the Country Music Television Awards.

But just where will he play? It is believed Owens is asking for $5 million a season which, at age 36 and after a laugh- able season in Buffalo, is surely stretching his market value.

"I'm not pricing myself out of the market at all," Owens said on the NFL Network. "If I'm being brought in as a starter, I would like to be compensated as a starter."

QUICK KICKS

The Rams will retire Isaac Bruce's No. 80 at a ceremony this season. Bruce, who along with quarterback Kurt Warner were the key pieces to the Rams' "Greatest Show on Turf" offence, officially announced his retirement Wednesday. Bruce played 16 seasons in the NFL, 14 of them with the Rams and scored the winning touchdown in the 2000 Super Bowl ... Absurd move by the NFLPA to protest the NFL's TV deals because the money is guaranteed even if there is a work stoppage. Nothing has put more cash in an NFL player's pocket than the billion-dollar deals the NFL routinely signs with hungry U.S. networks ... The Chargers signed three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Tra Thomas to a one-year contract in a move that smells of putting pressure on Marcus McNeill to end his holdout ... Movin' on up: Rookie QB Tim Tebow has moved up to No. 3 on the Broncos' depth chart with the release of Tom Brandstater.

ROB.LONGLEY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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