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Owens and Cowboys on Same Page

September 10, 2006|From the Associated Press

IRVING, Texas — No matter what Terrell Owens does for the Dallas Cowboys this season, he's already been worth every penny.

Look at the jump in ticket sales.

Check out how many juicy TV time slots the Cowboys have this season.

Better yet, count up all the No. 81 jerseys the club has sold.

The excitement generated by "the player," as Coach Bill Parcells usually refers to Owens, is amazing. Even Deion Sanders didn't generate the buzz T.O. has, and Prime Time arrived back when the Cowboys were winning Super Bowls.

Perhaps that's the connection: Dallas hasn't won a playoff game in 10 years, leaving fans -- and team owner Jerry Jones -- so demoralized that they've embraced the guy who until a few months ago was probably their most-despised foe.

"I'm very fortunate for the opportunity that the Cowboys have given me," said Owens, who will make his Dallas debut Sunday in Jacksonville.

"This is a team that I felt when I looked at the market that's been kind of on the edge of making the playoffs," he said. "I think with the addition of myself and a couple of guys on the team, we can get ourselves where we need to be."

The combination of this player on this team with this coach has unleashed all kinds of hope and hype. Jones knows it too, but he's not bragging.

Not yet, at least.

See, Jones insists he signed Owens strictly to help the Cowboys win. And it's not just rhetoric.

As a former oil wildcatter, the only thing Jones likes more than winning is getting to say "I told you so" after winning. He's already gotten that thrill once in the NFL, when he and Jimmy Johnson became back-to-back champions only a few years after being branded fools for the way they were rebuilding "America's Team." He believes this gambit will let him say it again.

"When we won those Super Bowls, it was fabulous beyond description," Jones said. "What really made it so entertaining was how critical the sports world had been about what we'd done with the Dallas Cowboys over the years before. It was the contrast, the dynamics, that made it so great."

So when Owens became available, Jones didn't hold a grudge against the receiver for having celebrated two touchdowns on the team's midfield logo during a game six years ago. "I was thinking about the touchdowns before he went to the star," Jones said.

Owens' ability is seldom an issue. When happy and healthy, he's probably the best receiver going.

He combines the reliable hands of a possession receiver such as Keyshawn Johnson, his predecessor in Dallas, with the big-play ability of fellow wideout Terry Glenn. Best of all, he can do both on one play, taking a short pass and turning it into a long touchdown.

Look back to his last regular-season game. Owens caught three passes for 154 yards, including a 91-yard touchdown that started as a three-yard pass to the sideline, then turned into the longest play of his career after he juked past Champ Bailey, one of the NFL's top cornerbacks.

But the reason Owens hasn't played since that day in Denver -- way back on Oct. 30 -- underscores why no matter how great he performs, his talent is rarely the first thing people talk about.

Fed up with gripes over his contract, squabbles with Donovan McNabb and other indiscretions, the Philadelphia Eagles dumped Owens before the next game. They even got lawyers involved to make sure he never returned.

Although team officials knew what they were getting into when they acquired him in 2004, and despite Owens' almost leading them to their first Super Bowl title in February 2005, the breakup was so harsh that Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie was still filled with spite this summer.

"Nobody should be able to be as disruptive and really cut the energy of the team down," Lurie said.

Philadelphia released Owens in March. Four days later, he signed a three-year, $25-million deal with Dallas. He got a $5-million signing bonus and another $5 million in salary for this season -- more money in 2006 than he would've gotten under his deal with the Eagles.

His first six months with the Cowboys already have had the ups and downs that, at this point, should be expected.

He was excused from most of the team's off-season training and released his second autobiography shortly before training camp. Less than a week into practices, he had a hamstring injury that looked like no big deal on an MRI, yet bothered him enough to fly in specialists.

After mocking his time on the stationary bike by dressing up as a member of Lance Armstrong's cycling team (he couldn't find a yellow jersey), Owens was back on the field the following week, only to go down again soon after. He blamed coaches for pushing him too hard.

Back in Dallas, Owens was fined $9,500 for being late to work -- "I overslept," he explained -- but healed in time to play in the preseason finale. He's practiced all this week and, coincidence or not, things seem to be smoothing out just in time for the opener.

"Everybody is on the same page at this point," Owens said Wednesday.

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