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Wanting 'new attitude,' Cowboys cut T.O.

Jerry Jones made it clear, both in action and words: Cutting Terrell Owens means a fresh start for the Dallas Cowboys.

Owens was released Thursday, ending a three-year Cowboys run that produced as many big headlines as big plays. Many of those headlines were about ego and attitude, and Jones has decided enough is enough. The team owner wants the focus on winning, something Dallas hasn't done in the playoffs since 1996.

The team later issued a statement officially announcing the release of Owens and veteran safety Roy Williams.

"In the aftermath of the season, we talked about change," Jones said in the statement. "Some of what is changing involves the process and some of it involves people. This is a decision that was made based upon consideration for an entire team.

"We will move on now with a new team -- a new attitude -- and into a new stadium. The evaluation process and the prospect for change will continue at every level of the organization."

Owens released a statement on his Web site thanking Jones, head coach Wade Phillips and the Cowboys' organization "for the opportunity to be a member of the team for the past three years."

"A big thanks to the fans -- you've been awesome!" Owens added. "I look forward to the upcoming season and continuing to play in the NFL."

Owens caught more touchdown passes than any NFL wide receiver over the last three years and was a big part of Tony Romo's emergence from an unknown backup to a starlet-dating Pro Bowl quarterback with a $67 million contract.

Yet the Cowboys went 0-2 in the playoffs with Owens and didn't even make it this past season. Dallas' late-season collapse -- capped by a lackluster effort in a win-and-you're-in finale in Philadelphia -- emphasized that a new attitude was needed.

Jones was slow to go along with that idea. Just a few weeks ago, he indicated Owens wasn't going anywhere and firmly said the idea of locker-room problems were "a figment of the result. You didn't hear about those things when we were winning."

Owens learned he was being cut Wednesday night and sent text messages to his friends. Cowboys wide receiver Sam Hurd said Owens' reaction was "more shock than anger."

"He didn't give me an explanation. He just said, 'Wow,'" Hurd said Thursday. "I really didn't believe that he seen that coming. ... He said it's tough, but it's a business."

What's next for Owens? It remains to be seen what kind of market there is for a 35-year-old with a proven track record -- good and bad.

Owens is among the NFL's career leaders in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns. Over the last three years, his 38 touchdowns are one more than Randy Moss, and Owens is among the league's best in catches, receiving yards, yards per catch and yards per game.

But the Cowboys are Owens' third team, and all three have gotten rid of him because of personality, not performance.

"I don't think (being released) is going to stop him from playing football," Hurd said. "He's going to be back on somebody's team."

The Cowboys signed Owens in March 2006, despite the bitterness that some fans had for him having celebrated on the team's star logo while he was a San Francisco 49er. At his introductory news conference, Owens declared, "Getcha popcorn ready," and he certainly kept things interesting.

Owens' first Cowboys season included an accidental overdose that police initially called a possible suicide attempt and an obviously strained relationship with coach Bill Parcells. Yet it also included the most touchdown catches in the NFL and the birth of Romo's stardom.

With a new coach and a new offensive coordinator in 2007, Owens set a team record with 15 touchdown catches, and Dallas tied the best record in franchise history at 13-3, only to lose its first playoff game. Owens tearfully supported Romo afterward, then a few months later received a $34 million contract extension at a news conference that featured a humongous bowl of popcorn.

The Romo-Owens relationship appeared to fray late this past season, with Owens upset about everything from game plans to pass distribution. He had 213 yards in one game, but he cracked 100 yards in only one other game, the otherwise forgettable finale in Philadelphia, where he played in 2004 and 2005.

Dallas already has a replacement as the top wide receiver in Roy Williams, who led the NFC in receiving yards in 2006. The Cowboys gave up a first-, third- and sixth-round pick in the upcoming draft to acquire Williams from the Detroit Lions midway through last season.

In addition to Williams and Hurd, the Cowboys also have Patrick Crayton and Miles Austin at wide receiver, plus Jason Witten, who's among the best receiving tight ends in the NFL.

What Romo and Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett no longer have are any concerns about whether No. 81 is happy.

"I know it takes a lot of pressure off Romo," Hurd said. "A guy like him demands the ball, and you want to get him the ball. Now he can look at all of us and see which one is open on any given play. ... I don't think that was a problem. That's just what could and might start happening."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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