IRVING, Texas (March 18, 2006) -- Terrell Owens has gone from stomping on the Dallas Cowboys' star logo to wearing it on his helmet.
The reviled receiver joined the Cowboys, signing a three-year contract to play for Jerry Jones and Bill Parcells in what promises to be an interesting combination of strong personalities.
"I'm a star among stars now," a smiling Owens said.
There's no questioning his talent -- Owens has consistently put up numbers the Cowboys have lacked since Michael Irvin was in the prime of his career in the mid-1990s.
It's his attitude that prompted the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles to get rid of Owens. His relationship with the Eagles soured only months after he led them to the Super Bowl, finally ending with his release March 14.
Owens referred to his past problems as "life-learning experiences."
"I'm going to put those things behind me," Owens said. "They can only make a man stronger, wiser. For me, that's what it's done. I'll be a better teammate, a better person, a better man in life. I'm looking forward to this opportunity. I couldn't be more excited to be here."
Following up a question to Jones about Owens' past, the receiver interjected: "Jerry, I know what's expected of me. I won't let you down."
Jones didn't immediately reveal any contract details, but it was likely to include behavior-related provisions. Owens' blowup with Philadelphia last season even led to new rules regarding punishment being written into the NFL's latest collective bargaining agreement.
"We can both disappoint each other in this agreement," Jones said. "But this is no free lunch to the Dallas Cowboys. We made a commitment to him. That means something."
Agent Drew Rosenhaus said seven teams pursued Owens, "but this was the only team for Terrell."
Jones repeatedly mentioned that Parcells was in favor of adding Owens. The coach and his new star receiver already have spoken by telephone, although Parcells didn't attend the news conference. That's typical, though, because he hasn't attended any for free-agent signings since joining the club three-plus years ago.
"This was not me selling Bill, this was not Bill selling me," Jones said. "This was us taking advantage of getting an outstanding player. ... Bill has coached a lot of players that, quote-unquote, have the perception that they might not fit in with team chemistry."
Jones, who built a billion-dollar fortune by taking big risks, is willing to take this one because the Cowboys have gone nine years without winning a playoff game.
Part of the gamble is that fans will warm up to Owens, who launched his flamboyant persona in September 2000 when as a member of the 49ers he celebrated each of two touchdown catches at Texas Stadium by running to the team's star logo at midfield. Safety George Teague secured a spot in team lore by decking Owens after the second one.
On a Monday night game in 2004 best remembered for his pregame skit with a Desperate Housewives actress, Owens celebrated another score by tapping on a logo in the end zone.
Owens said he and Jones already have discussed his future TD celebrations. With an arm on Jones' back, he smiled wide and said, "I will embrace the star."
Until his behavior limited him to nine games last season, Owens had at least 75 receptions and 1,100 yards receiving in five consecutive seasons. The last time a Cowboys receiver hit both figures in one season was Irvin in 1997.
But Owens also has alienated teammates, coaches and the front office with the things he says and does.
In Dallas, Owens joins a team coming off a 9-7 season that included a 2-4 finish, keeping them from making the playoffs for a second successive season. The Cowboys seem to need more than a star receiver to get over the hump, but do need a main threat after releasing Keyshawn Johnson on March 14.
The team lacks veteran leaders, with captains Dan Campbell and Dat Nguyen already gone, as is La'Roi Glover, another calming influence. Dallas also is in a tough division that includes T.O.-less Philadelphia, the New York Giants hoping to improve as quarterback Eli Manning develops, and the Washington Redskins, who have been big spenders in free agency.
The Eagles gave up on Owens only months after he helped them reach the Super Bowl. He demanded a new contract one year into a seven-year deal, then squabbled with quarterback Donovan McNabb.
Before that, Owens forced his way out of San Francisco with repeated hijinks on the field and through disparaging comments about teammates, including quarterback Jeff Garcia.
Jones is no stranger to unpopular moves.
After winning big gambles in real estate and digging for oil wells, he put it all on the line to buy the Cowboys in 1989. Since then, he has fired Tom Landry, forced out Jimmy Johnson, entrusted a championship club to Barry Switzer and given Deion Sanders a $13 million signing bonus.
Jones felt pretty good about his choices when the Cowboys won their third Super Bowl in a four-year span. But that was 1995; Dallas has won only one playoff game since.
He has lost other big gambles along the way, from sticking with Switzer to hiring Chan Gailey, then Dave Campo as head coaches. He also has risked public scorn by releasing franchise icons Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith.
Irvin's off-field woes are the local precedent for taking on Owens. However, while Irvin might have tarnished the team's image, he was a devoted teammate and fan favorite.
When Irvin was returning from a five-game suspension in 1996, he was asked how he expected fans to treat him. Irvin said he only had to score a touchdown to win them back -- and he was right.
Could it be that easy for Owens?
The Associated Press News Service
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