PHILADELPHIA (Aug. 17, 2005) -- Terrell Owens ran routes, caught passes and joked around with his Philadelphia Eagles teammates -- quite a different T.O. from the one booted out of training camp a week ago.
This Terrell Owens smiled, laughed and even tutored some of the younger receivers on the sidelines.
"He was fine today. He did a great job," said coach Andy Reid, who gave the All-Pro wideout the heave-ho and told him not to come back for a week.
The new Terrell Owens, however, still couldn't bring himself to talk to the player he needs to be in sync with the most: Donovan McNabb.
For the first time, McNabb -- who has maintained his sense of humor throughout the ordeal -- said he anticipated talking to Owens at some point.
"I think it's going to happen. I look forward to it happening," McNabb said. "But, again, when we get to that situation, then that's when we will handle it. I think what we are doing right now is easing into everything and just going out and working, trying to answer some of the questions one of us may have and then be able to work in the confines of our own football field."
The running feud between quarterback and receiver was set aside while they were on the field, at least. The two stood next to each other in the huddle at times, across from each other at others, and appeared to communicate between plays. But they also stood side-by-side while stretching at the end of practice -- and didn't say a word.
Owens ran precise routes and caught crisp passes from McNabb. All that was missing were high-fives and hugs.
"He works hard out there on the field. We were able to make some big plays," McNabb said.
Owens met briefly with Reid before practice, a condition for his return. He didn't answer questions from reporters after the morning practice. "It was a good meeting," Reid said, avoiding questions about particulars. "He did a nice job. He worked very hard." Owens, again wearing camouflage and listening to oversized headphones, arrived at Philadelphia's practice facility at 7:27 a.m. He was greeted by several dozen fans, some holding signs, including one that read "TO must go" -- the same message carried on a radio station-sponsored banner trailing an airplane that flew near the practice field. Owens jogged onto the field shortly before the morning session began at 8:45. He missed several practices with a groin injury before he was sent home last week, so Reid limited his reps to avoid aggravating the injury.
The NFC champions are hoping Owens isn't a distraction the rest of camp and into the season. The Eagles didn't allow Owens' antics to disrupt them last year, though he had a better relationship with McNabb, Reid and just about everyone else.
"I can't sit here and try to tell you what Terrell is going to do," All-Pro safety Brian Dawkins said. "Only Terrell knows what he is going to do."
Owens spent a few days at his home in Atlanta after he left the team last week, then returned to Philadelphia on Aug. 15. A police escort led him from the tarmac and away from fans and reporters waiting at the airport terminal.
Owens' return to his home in Moorestown, N.J., the next night was met with the same hoopla as when he left. He ignored reporters' questions, waved to fans and signed autographs from a green SUV -- the same one he drove last year. Owens was accompanied home by agent Drew Rosenhaus and publicist Kim Etheredge.
Owens had said he'll report and give his all, but won't be happy because the Eagles won't redo his contract. The team refuses to budge from its hard-line stance: Owens can play for them under the seven-year deal he signed last year, or he won't play at all.
A message left on Owens' website last week said he planned to catch more balls than he ever has and his "on-the-field heroics will far outweigh any off-field criticism."
"Terrell will return to camp and continue to display the work ethic, and on-the-field dedication that has made him one of the world's most elite athletes," the message said. "For you the fan, and your continued support in the most difficult of times, Terrell plans to reward you with a season for the ages. Where small men succumb, great men overcome!"
Owens used the media to blast Reid, McNabb and offensive coordinator Brad Childress in separate television interviews last week, including a bizarre scene where he held a shirtless workout in his driveway. He called out Reid, said McNabb was a "hypocrite," and accused Childress of being antagonistic, saying the offending words were repeated greetings of "Hey, Terrell."
"If a daily, 'How you doing' or a 'What's up' is antagonistic or spiteful, then I must be on the wrong planet," Childress said.
It'll be interesting to see how long Owens can go without irritating Reid to the point where he would consider suspending him. The Eagles sent Owens a letter detailing why he was sent home last week. The team wanted to document exactly what its grievances are with Owens in case additional disciplinary action is necessary in the future.
It's obvious the offense is much better with the playmaking, showboating Owens, especially since the Eagles lost starter Todd Pinkston to a season-ending injury early in camp. Freddie Mitchell, the No. 3 receiver in 2004, was cut in the offseason, leaving the Eagles with Greg Lewis, Billy McMullen and rookie Reggie Brown. The trio had 12 receptions for 139 yards in a preseason loss to Pittsburgh on Aug. 15.
Owens had 77 receptions for 1,200 yards and a franchise-record 14 touchdowns before severely injuring his ankle late in the season. He missed the final two regular-season games and the first two playoff games before returning for the Super Bowl, in which he had nine receptions for 122 yards.