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Cowboys' Owens finally returns to practice

Terrell Owens was finally back on the field even though he says he's still not 100 percent. Instead of bike helmets or shorts, Owens was in pads, working with his Cowboys teammates after missing 14 straight practices because of a hamstring problem.

OXNARD, Calif. (Aug. 16, 2006) -- Terrell Owens was finally back on the field even though he says he's still not 100 percent.

Instead of bike helmets or shorts, Owens was in pads, working with his Cowboys teammates after missing 14 straight practices because of a hamstring problem.

"Not where I want to be, but definitely some improvement," Owens said after the nearly 2 1/2-hour practice. "I just felt like with the things I was doing rehabwise, I could do some limited stuff. We're not going to go overboard. They're going to work me in until I get my endurance."

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones suggested last weekend that Owens needed to learn how to practice at less than 100 percent. The receiver insisted earlier this week that he knew only one way to practice -- at full game speed.

Then earlier Aug. 16, Bill Parcells reiterated that Owens needed to be back on the field.

And a couple of hours later, Owens was.

"I just prayed about it, right before I got out here. That's the God's honest truth," Owens said. "I feel like a lot of people have been speculating with me sitting on the bike every day. ... I'm not going to let anybody, as far as mediawise, coachingwise, speculate as far as my health is concern. I feel like I've got nothing to prove to anybody."

Still, Owens acknowledged that he didn't want to be a problem.

"I don't want to have any friction with anybody," he said. "But I feel like at some time, when someone starts to question my heart or my injury, it does get under your skin a little bit."

As has been his custom throughout camp, Owens was the last player on the field.

Owens did ride the stationary bicycle on the sideline, where he's spent the last two weeks, but this time just for a quick warmup before the only practice of the day -- his first since Aug. 2.

Parcells, who spoke only before practice, said perceptions that he was angry at the receiver were wrong.

"Can you get a little frustrated from time to time? Yeah," Parcells said. "But that's all. We'll see. Things will work out. ... I don't want to jeopardize the early part of the season by making a mistake here. I really don't."

After his warmup on the bicycle and a few stretches, Owens went straight to the huddle to join the first-team offense for some half-speed plays. When he got the line, he slapped hands with defensive back Terence Newman.

Owens took part in individual and team drills, though he did sit out a few plays.

The timing was obviously off between him and quarterback Drew Bledsoe, with a couple of passes thrown out of Owens' reach. On a route over the middle, Newman knocked the bobbling ball out of his hands, and it was intercepted by another defender.

"We're still sort of like in a rehab phase," Owens said. "Obviously, I think Drew and I, we need to get in synch, get on a better page."

Bledsoe didn't stop to talk to reporters after practice.

Owens spoke after practice with NFL career rushing leader Emmitt Smith, the former Cowboy who visited camp between practices for his upcoming appearance on ABC's Dancing With the Stars. Owens even did a couple of steps with Smith's dance partner.

The stage could now be set for Owens to play his first game for the Cowboys in their next preseason game, a nationally televised game against the New Orleans Saints on Aug. 21. But Owens said he's still day to day, and isn't sure if he'll be play.

During his daily briefing with reporters earlier Aug. 16, Parcells wouldn't say if Owens would play even if he returned to the field.

"That doesn't mean he would play," Parcells said. "He has missed a lot of time. It wouldn't be so much whether he practiced or not, as to how he looked, how much he practiced and did he get enough practice to make a good judgment about playing him."

While the Cowboys went through two practices Aug. 15, Owens did rehabilitation work. He rode the stationary bike before doing stretching and running exercises. He ran routes, making hard cuts without any apparent discomfort, and did some 100-yard sprints at full speed. He had a similar workout Aug. 14.

Last week Owens wore the Discovery Channel pro cycling team's silver and blue uniform to poke fun at all the time he's spending on the stationary bicycle.

Owens first felt a twinge in his hamstring Aug. 2, but an MRI taken three days later was clear. Owens flew in several doctors and trainers, plus a hyperbaric chamber, because he still didn't feel right.

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