Do you remember the scene in "The Incredibles" in which seamstress Edna Mode ticks off all the grisly demises of the superheroes whose outfits included capes? One had her cape sucked into a jet turbine. Another's cape got snagged on a launching missile, etc., etc. "No capes!" Edna snaps when she finishes the stroll down tragic memory lane.
I'm reminded of that scene as I recall all of the 49ers receivers who have donned No. 81 post Terrell Owens. Many have worn the number. Nary one has had any sustained success, and most have flamed out in spectacular fashion almost as soon as the jersey draped their shoulder pads. No. 81 is like the Brady Bunch tiki doll. Wear it and you're bound to wake up with a tarantula crawling across the bridge of your nose.
I'm not saying that Owens, who left San Francisco after the 2003 season spitting venom and torching bridges, placed a curse on his former jersey. But I'm not saying he didn't. No 49ers receiver has gotten remotely close to the Pro Bowl since he left. In fact, none has even reached 1,000 receiving yards. Those who have actually worn No. 81 have fared much worse. The damned:
• Rashaun Woods (2004-05). The former first-round pick said his dream was to be a fisherman. That may be what he's doing right now.
• Brandon Williams* (2006-07). The former third-round pick wanted to be a rapper. That may be what he's doing right now.
• Antonio Bryant. (2006). His wild year in San Francisco included a drive up Highway 101 in an orange Lamborghini that ended with him in leather restraints in the back seat of a patrol car.
• Brandon Jones (2009). The free-agent pickup never won over his position coach and ended his only season with the 49ers with one reception and one notable botched reverse on a punt return.
• Braylon Edwards (2011). He wore it in the preseason and didn't last until the end of the regular season.
Which brings us to the present day (and the end of the tongue-and-cheek portion of this post). Some might say the fact that Chris Owusu wore No. 81 at Stanford should have been enough to prompt him to change digits at the NFL level. His stay on The Farm was marked by three concussions over a 13-month period, including one for which he had to be taken off the field in an ambulance.
Owusu was one of the most physically gifted wideouts to enter the draft - his combine numbers bear that out - but was not drafted. The 49ers signed him to a free-agent contract on Friday.
There's already a sense that Owusu, who has a degree in human biology, is tempting fate by pursuing a career in football after what happened at Stanford. He'll also be the latest 49er to test the No. 81 curse.
I'm being entirely sincere when I say I hope T.O.'s spell is lifted this year.
* Williams wore No. 17 in 2006 and switched to No. 81 the following year.
-- Matt Barrows