On first day of camp, Owens receives media with smiles

The Baltimore Sun

San Antonio // There we were, pencils poised and cameras focused on the first day of practice at Dallas Cowboys training camp, and much to our chagrin, Terrell Owens did not:

Claim a hamstring injury and join the sideline stationary bike peloton

Suggest it was time for a new contract.

Reveal that he had just swallowed a full bottle of Flintstones-brand pain pills.

Chortle "I told ya so" about Drew Bledsoe.

Smirk "Good riddance" about the former head coach.

In other words, Owens minded his manners Wednesday at the Alamodome. No outbursts, no disses, no drama.

ESPN's SportsCenter, deprived of the customary Owens theatrics, was probably going to have to run 10 minutes of dead air.

For example, some TV guy lobbed Owens a softball of a question about the camp's "new attitude."

"Well, I mean, everybody knows we have a new coach," Owens answered. "But, you know, I'm here just looking forward, and I'm not trying to dwell on what happened in the past."

Right. From Camp Bill to Camp Sunshine.

"It's just refreshing for a lot of us," Owens said, refusing to take the bait. "We're looking forward to getting beyond that bitter loss we had in Seattle," a reference to the wild-card defeat to the Seahawks during the 2006 postseason.

The former head coach, you may recall, seldom mentioned the wide receiver by name. Owens claimed that when he had his well-over-publicized alleged overdose of pain medication last September, Bill Parcells didn't even telephone to ask how he was.

But Owens took the high road Wednesday.

Are there "better communications" in this camp, Owens was asked?

"I had an open line of communication with Bill," Owens answered. "There was nothing wrong with our communication."

You get the idea. Maybe Owens figured it would be bad karma to dance on Parcells' grave on the first day of practice.

Granted, this wasn't exactly a Philadelphia-type audience. The Alamodome seats were filled with literally thousands of Cowboys-adoring, Owens-adulating fans.

For their first training camp workout of the Wade Phillips era, the Cowboys dressed in jerseys, shoulder pads and shorts. Nobody tried to clothesline Owens coming off the line of scrimmage.

It was easy, therefore, to look quick and crisp, and the audience responded accordingly.

In the waning seconds of the two-hour workout, Owens gave them something to remember the day by. Quarterback Tony Romo fired a missile downfield to Owens, who was running stride-for-stride with defender Anthony Henry.

The pass appeared to be overthrown, but Owens warp-accelerated into a higher gear and caught the football on the run, leaving Henry spinning at the 10-yard line.

"I feel good, and those are some of the things that I want to cater to during the season - kind of stretching the field," Owens said.

Parcells had those plays, too. But Romo wasn't often allowed to call them.

Or if he did, Owens dropped the ball.

One of his goals this season, Owens said, is "to catch the ball better and, obviously, be involved more in the offense."

"We got started with that today," he said.

A year ago, Owens began his first camp under Parcells on the wrong foot. His early days of practice were mostly spent nursing an apparent leg injury by pedaling - in pro cyclist attire - on a sideline stationary bicycle. During the regular season, after leading the NFL in dropped passes, Owens revealed that he had a finger injury that would require surgery.

"I feel great," Owens said Wednesday, when asked to assess his current condition.

The finger is fine, he said. The leg is fine. He punctuated the diagnosis by flashing his trademark innocent pearly smile.

"I feel good," he assured us.

For the record, Phillips is operating under the same assessment. The coach noted that Owens participated in an offseason minicamp even before doctors expected him to.

"And, obviously, he practiced well today," Phillips said.

Indeed, he did. For this one day, Owens was all smiles and proper answers.

Think of the empty notebooks we're going to have.

Right.

Gil LeBreton writes for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

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