Not surprisingly, Stephen A. Smith was summoned for the special ESPN therapy session with Terrell Owens. T.O. continues to insist that Ed Werder made up his story, but amazingly, SAS chose not to defend his colleague. (Smith even used "allegedly" to talk about the incident.)
But afterward, SAS popped onto Michael Irvin's radio show to clarify his position:
Smith — Ed Werder is only as good as his sources. At the end of the day, someone told Ed Werder what he wrote, he didn't make it up. People in the Cowboys lockerroom need to be looking at each other and not Ed Werder.
You cultivate sources over time and judge whether that sources information is always accurate and then you go with them. Ed Werder's reputation is well established. Terrell Owens is not lying
Smith maintains that he was critical of T.O. when he was "columnist" for the Philadelphia Inquirer and isn't siding with him. SAS is great at building these relationships with athletes — especially ones that are perceived troublemakers and have Philly ties. (Kobe, A.I. are also on this list.) He presents himself as a confidant, one who's sympathetic, who will let the person tell "their side of the story" and only prods a little to keep the conversation real. He speaks jive, stewardess. It's definitely a skill.
But what about poor Ed? SI's Arash Markazi almost went all-caps on his blog to rip ESPN:
There's no way Werder can properly defend himself against Owen's allegations, and for ESPN to continue to put him in that position is unfair. Werder simply reported a story that he heard from "multiple team sources." What is he supposed to do? Name his sources? When Werder asked Owens if he would comment on what he heard and answer just a couple of questions last week, Owens said, "Nope." So if he turned down an opportunity to defend himself to the reporter actually covering the story, why should he be able to do so with someone he and his agent may be more comfortable with?