Thursday, January 20, 2005

Hula Bowl practice lasts
1 play too long for Owens

WAILUKU, Maui » Things were going fine for Chad Owens yesterday morning, until the very last play of the West's Hula Bowl practice.

The Hawaii receiver and kick returner suffered damage to cartilage near his ribs in Saturday's East-West Shrine Game. But he looked fine yesterday at practice, catching passes and absorbing tackles as the West practiced in full pads.

But then he hit the ground hard after a leaping catch at the end of the 2-hour session and grimaced in pain while being interviewed about his ribs.

"I kind of messed it up on that last play," he said. "So now I don't know."

Owens has two days to recover and play one last college game for Hawaii fans. He said he wants to do it, but it will be a tough decision if he doesn't feel 100 percent.

His stock has risen dramatically after making eight catches for 134 yards and a touchdown at the Shrine Game, coupled with strong workouts prior to the game and outstanding one-on-one interviews with the scouts. The one negative was his fumble on a kickoff Saturday, which introduced some to and reminded others of the fact that Owens has dropped a few kicks in his career.

If he plays in the Hula Bowl and doesn't fumble, it doesn't really help him that much. But if he does fumble, it could hurt him a lot.

Owens isn't even thinking that way, though.

"You always have to expect to play. But you have to see how your body feels. I don't want to say 'yeah' or 'no.' We'll see that day," he said. "It would mean a lot for me to play. But what's important is my career. I don't want to set myself back by doing something foolish. I'm out here for the fans, and I want to do the best I can for them."

The short end of it: As many suspected, Tim Chang has been living a lie. A white lie, yes, and not one perpetrated by him.

But it's now official: He is not 6-feet-2, despite the information rosters provided by the University of Hawaii have indicated for the past several years.

According to the official heights and weights done Tuesday night, Chang is 6-feet and 3/4 inch tall (and he weighed 204 pounds at the time).

"It doesn't matter, but it does matter," Chang said, knowing that his height is a cause of concern for NFL body shoppers.

"As long as you can see your receivers downfield, it doesn't matter," he said.

Chang smiled when he was reminded about another quarterback who barely made 6-feet at the Hula Bowl. That was Purdue's Drew Brees, who was the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year with the San Diego Chargers this season.

The need for speed: BYU safety Aaron Francisco, a Kahuku graduate, has been told he could be picked anywhere from the second to the fifth round of the NFL Draft. The biggest X-factor for him is his time in the 40 yard dash.

"That's probably the question I get asked the most," the All-Mountain West performer said.

And he doesn't like to answer it. "I'm not going to say," Francisco said with a smile.

"But it is very important how fast I run," he said. "They already know I can make plays."

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