BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Just like John Elway two decades before him, Terrell Owens issued a mea culpa to Baltimore. Nothing personal, the NFL's most flamboyant personality said. It's just that the Philadelphia Eagles were a better fit, and besides, it was about time he got a quarterback worthy of his talents.
Candid to a fault, Owens yesterday said a murky quarterback picture in Baltimore motivated him in his attempt to nullify a March 4 trade to the Ravens.
It took nearly two weeks of maneuvering before he got his way. Hours before a special arbitrator was to rule on the legality of the trade to Baltimore, Owens was dealt to Philadelphia.
Baltimore's burst balloon became Philadelphia's Hail Mary completion.
Asked whether the Ravens' quarterback situation, with second-year quarterback Kyle Boller, scared him last spring, Owens launched into an explanation that covered as much ground as a deep post pattern.
"I would definitely say it was a factor for me being here," Owens said during his first formal face-the-media session of training camp. "My thing is, I know Kyle Boller is not a bad quarterback. But he's an up-and-coming quarterback that I'm not really familiar with. Anthony Wright took over midway through the season, and I feel like it was his job to have and right now with injuries, anything can happen.
"My thing was, I was familiar with the West Coast offense. Along with the quarterback situation and my familiarity with the West Coast offense, that was more of a reason for me to lean toward the Philly side.
"I have no grudges with Baltimore. It was a business decision. Everybody goes through this, and any of the guys who feel slighted by that, I feel that if they were in my shoes, then they would have done the same thing."
It was 1983 when Elway refused to play for the Baltimore Colts after they chose him first in the college draft. Elway went on to enjoy a Hall of Fame career with the Denver Broncos, but he had to make an early-season start in Baltimore his rookie year. Not surprisingly, he was booed relentlessly by Colts fans, and after a miserable beginning, was pulled from the game.
Owens, a nine-year veteran and four-time Pro Bowler, doesn't have to pass through Baltimore this season, but he will face the spurned Ravens twice. There's an Aug. 20 preseason game and an Oct. 31 regular-season date, both in Philadelphia.
He already knows what that means. It'll be a chance to exchange pleasantries with Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis, who had attempted to recruit Owens - just like McNabb - at last season's Pro Bowl.
Owens already had heard indirectly from Lewis, but said he won't be intimidated by the game's dominant defensive player. Owens effectively invited Lewis to play in the secondary against the Eagles.
"I think he's had some remarks about trying to scare me about coming across the middle, but I've been doing it," Owens said. "I made my living coming across the middle, so it doesn't bother me.
"He's not the hardest hitter that ever played the game of football, although he's definitely a great talent. [But] I'm not going to shy away from my style of play vs. his style of play. It's not like I play running back where I'll be faced with him every time. So if he wants to line up at DB [defensive back], then he can do that."
Owens' respect for Lewis was obvious, however, with this observation: "Ray doesn't throw any passes, so that's more reason for me not to be on that side."
It was clear again yesterday that Owens' desire to play with an elite quarterback was the biggest impetus in his effort to join the Eagles.
Noting that Jerry Rice, the NFL's all-time leading receiver and a former teammate in San Francisco, had Joe Montana and Steve Young throwing to him, Owens lamented his quarterback past. That would be Jeff Garcia, who also left San Francisco in the offseason, signing with the Cleveland Browns (whom the Eagles play on Oct. 24).
"I've never really had a good quarterback that I could play with on a consistent level," Owens said. "Steve Young was there and he got hurt, and then Jeff came in and we played for a few years. So this is something that I'm really thriving off of, knowing the ability that I have and [McNabb] has and the ability that the team has to go further than they did last year."
After losing the NFC championship game the past three years, the Eagles hope Owens will get them over the Super Bowl hump.
"I know my purpose here. I know my role here," he said. "I'm just going to go out here and try to do my thing."
Owens on ...
Baltimore: "I have no grudges with Baltimore. It was a business decision. ... Any of the guys who feel slighted by that, I feel that if they were in my shoes, then they would have done the same thing."
Ray Lewis: "I think he's had some remarks about trying to scare me about coming across the middle. ... I made my living coming across the middle, so it doesn't bother me."