Can Jones be Owens' Savior?

IRVING, TX. - Terrell Owens is not the first player to arrive in Dallas with question marks hanging over his head.

Defensive end Charles Haley came to the Cowboys after a much-publicized fued with former San Francisco teammate Tim Harris. Wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson arrived after being essentially fired in Tampa Bay. Cornerback Deion Sanders was signed after creating a reputation as an extraordinary athlete whose primary concerns were self-promition and money.

Now Owens arrives with a rap sheet that includes questioning former San Francisco quarterback Jeff Garcia's sexuality, numreous sideline spats with teammates and coaches and one of the great feuds in sports history with former teammate Donovan McNabb.

None of those things, however, deterred the Cowboys from signing Owens, whose explosiveness off the field is perhaps matched only by his talent on it.

"I've always thought that you start with quality," Dallas owner Jerry Jones said, "and with Terrell, you're starting with an outstanding football player. If you're going to take a risk, you start there."

But Jones was hesitant to compare the Owens signing with the contracts that brought Haley and Johnson to Dallas.

"I don't want to be unfair to anybody, because I have so much respect for those players," he said. "But those players just remind us that everyone has their frailties.

"Nate Newton is another guy. Now, we all know Nate's not perfect. He had a career that wasn't going too well, but he came in here, worked hard, and became a Pro Bowler, and a big part of our team."

Jones didn't admit to a preference for players with questionable pasts, but admitted that the challenges that face players sometimes make those players stronger.

"I tell you this," Jones said. "I'd rather be with somebody who has been knocked to his knee and has the ability to turn that around than I would with someone who's never been knocked down."

Jones said that comparing Owens and Sanders is simply not a fair parallel.

"Those are totally different circumstances," Jones said. "I was always amazed that Deion was out there, but I understood why he was out there. I understand why T.O. was out there, too."

Jones also said he was concerned about Dallas fans' reaction to the Owens signing.

"I wouldn't have had the press conference I had this afternoon if I didn't care about that," Jones said. "There are a lot of opinions out there, but we wanted the fans to understand the logic behind this decision."

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