As Terrell Owens emerged from Virginia Mason Athletic Center on Wednesday for his first training camp practice with the Seahawks, he was greeted by a barrage of TV cameras and gauntlet of reporters.
But rather than flashing his trademark grin, the veteran wide receiver was wearing a where-do-I-go expression. It took receivers coach Kippy Brown calling his name and waving Owens in the direction of the other wide-outs to get him heading in the right direction.
Talk about a stranger in a strange land.
That all changed, however, when Owens finally got on the field and starting catching passes – as he has done for five other teams in a 15-year NFL career that has seen become one of the most prolific receivers in league history. This wasn’t just another free-agent wide receiver that coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider signed on Monday.
“That’s T.O.,” Pro Bowl cornerback
But a legend who’s looking to turn over a new leaf as he attempts to return to the league after sitting out last season following major knee surgery.
“It’s all about, for me now, being part of something, rather than being the center of something,” Owens said while facing those same cameras and reporters during a post-practice Q&A session. “I understand obviously a lot of the media is here because of me and, again, I’ve changed in a lot of ways. A lot of things have occurred that have occurred in the last two years. I’ve had a lot of time to think about things, put a lot of things in perspective, and I just want to move forward and leave all the things that happened five to 10 years ago behind me.”
Owens never did bad things, he just reacted – and often overreacted – when things were going badly for him and his previous teams – the San Francisco 49ers (1996-2003), Philadelphia Eagles (2004-05), Dallas Cowboys (2006-08), Buffalo Bills (2009) and Cincinnati Bengals (2010).
But, as he stressed and reemphasized, that was then and this is now.
“I know I’ve matured and changed in a lot of different ways,” said Owens, who will turn 39 in December. “Whether other people think that way, that’s up to them. But again, I’ve always been motivated and driven by my family. I know what’s most important to me.
“The last two years have been life changing for myself, so I don’t want to sit up here and try to emphasis how much I’ve changed. I think you’ll kind of see that. It’s more about, ‘Actions speak louder than words.’ I think you’ll see that more so than anything.”
His actions during practice definitely said all the right things. He caught a couple of passes while getting a dozen snaps and, again, he did not look like just another free-agent wide receiver.
“He made a couple plays, which is his M.O. – he’s a playmaker,” Brown said. “That’s what he’s here for. He got the opportunity and made a couple plays. So that was positive.
“For the first day, he was able to come out and was able play pretty well.”
Brown started Owens off at flanker, although Carroll said he could factor in at split end – where Carroll would like to have the big-target, big-play potential that recently released Mike Williams provided while leading the team in receptions in 2010.
“It’s obvious he’s been working,” Brown said. “He might not have been practicing football with a whole team, but he’s been working. He’s in phenomenal shape. He’s just got to get his football legs up under him.”
Owens also knows it’s only a matter of time, regardless of where he lines up.
“I’ve played a little bit of everything. I played in a numbers of offenses – from the West Coast, a little bit of the hybrids, the numbers systems,” he said. “But again, this is familiar territory for myself. So it won’t be long before I can get everything down and I can hit the field running without doing a lot of thinking.”
Owens’ thoughts after this first practice as a Seahawk were focused on the positive – what can be, rather than what has been.
Asked what needs to happen for this chapter of his life to be deemed a success, he offered, “Just me being a part of something special and me coming in and helping these guys and this team get to where we need to be. It’s all about winning our division, getting to the playoffs.
“As everyone has seen the last four or five years, it’s any team’s game once you get to the playoffs. So I’m looking forward to helping out in that challenge.”