Every media outlet in western New York and Toronto, Canada was there. So were ESPN and the NFL Network. "This is nothing; this is light," said Terrell Owens, speaking to a throng of media that had descended upon the Bills training facilities to cover his first official workout with his new team on May 18.
The Bills kicked off 11 days of organized team activities -- workouts without pads or much intensity -- but as expected it was a media circus. It spoke to Owens' stature as an athlete that transcends his sport. With these kinds of athletes, it's not always about the team or the game as much as the man.
And that left a lot of onlookers wondering what Owens' presence will mean to the Bills. The veteran wide receiver's comments and mood swings became distractions in the biggest of markets -- San Francisco to Philadelphia to Dallas. It means he has the potential to outright swallow a small market like Buffalo.
But management and players have professed they aren't worried. The Bills, who have missed the playoffs nine consecutive seasons, are desperate for a spark which is why they signed Owens just days after he was cut by Dallas earlier this offseason.
"We knew it would be like this," strong safety Donte Whitner said of the attention Owens was grabbing away from the team. "It's different but I guess we'll get used to it."
Nobody ever got used to it in Owens' previous NFL stops.
But even though the quarterback became the target of Owens' displeasure in San Francisco, Philly and Dallas, Buffalo third-year pro Trent Edwards said he isn't worried about potential problems.
"You bring a guy in like Terrell, he's going to bring in more (media) and that's kind of the nature of the beast," Edwards said.
This is a beast like none other in the NFL. Not only did Owens attract media attention, he brought his own: cameras from VH1 in Buffalo to begin filming his reality cable TV show.
Even before Owens arrived for practice at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the T.O. Party had started.
When he arrived at the airport just before midnight on a Sunday, a contingent of 200 rowdy fans greeted him, along with members of the team's cheerleading squad, the Jills. One fan was dressed as a box of popcorn. Owens once told Dallas fans to get "their popcorn ready" because he was going to put on a show. It's become his moniker.
Meanwhile, a day later, the mayor of Buffalo presented Owens with a key to the city at a ceremony at a downtown art gallery.
"It was awesome," Owens said of his greeting by fans. "Honestly, it was priceless. I really didn't expect it and it's the biggest welcome I've ever had. Going down the escalator and seeing the big ground of people really got me pumped for this year."
It wasn't all play and no work for Owens.
Impressively, he was all business on the field as he took part in all 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 work. At the end of a full-team passing drill, Owens sprinted deep down the right sideline and caught an Edwards' bomb against Terrence McGee.
"That's why we brought him in here, to do that," Edwards said.
"He's talented, a physical guy that catches the ball well and moves well. Obviously, he's in great shape, he's running routes, the deep 15-yard comeback routes one after the other, and it's my job to get the ball to him. I thought it was a great start today, working with him and working with the other guys, Lee (Evans) and Roscoe (Parrish) and Josh (Reed) and all of the other guys, it's exciting to be back."
Owens hadn't worked in the offseason with his former teams, instead preferring a strict regiment under a personal trainer. But since he's coming into a new situation in Buffalo, he said it was critical that he be here."This time is very, very valuable because the offense is new to me," he said.
He said once he gets all the plays, concepts and terminology down, then "I'll just go out there and play free."
As for assuming a leadership role in Buffalo, Owens said his definition of leadership could take some getting used to.
"I can do that and it can be blown out of proportion just like last year," he said of his time in Dallas where he had a falling out with QB Tony Romo. "They'll be clips shown of me barking at a guy, this and that. In my mind that's leadership, but in somebody else's eyes that's me being disruptive to the team, so for me, I'll voice my opinion when need be but overall, if you ask my teammates, I'm pretty much a quiet guy."