Bill Parcells has more than a little experience dealing with the media. His savvy showed Friday when he sat down for his first press conference in months, and opened with a guessing game.
"I wonder what you guys want to talk about," he said, tongue planted firmly in cheek.
Parcells might never have said anything so obvious in his entire coaching career. His appearance at the team's mini-camp was his first public address since the team's highly publicized acquisition of wide receiver Terrell Owens. Parcells was peppered with questions about his agreement with the move, which he said made too much sense to pass up.
"He's been a good, productive player for a long time," Parcells said of Owens. "We've seen an awful lot of him, and we think he can help us."
With any other new player, that might have ended the discussion. But with a player of Owens' mercurial personality and penchant for drawing the spotlight with his mouth and behavior, as well as with his play, the discussion was just beginning.
"You always have concerns when you acquire a new player who, really, you don't know personally," he said. "I've always said, this talent acquisition is really a 50-50 proposition, so if you get it about half right, you're doing pretty well."
Despite the theatrics that led to Owens' exit from Philadelphia, and previously from San Francisco, Parcells said he doesn't view the addition of the explosive (on and off the field) Owens to be a big risk for the Cowboys.
"I don't view it as a gamble," he said. "It's in my best interest that he's successful, and it's in his best interest that he's successful. So I think we want the same things. The problem is when my expectations are higher than theirs. That's when I get hot."
Parcells said that while Owens' raw talent is beyond question, it would be unwise to think he'll step into the Dallas lineup and immediately put up the gaudy numbers that made him an annual Pro Bowler and one of the game's premier receivers.
"(Owens) has been playing pretty much playing in the same system for about 10 years, but that's going to change here," Parcells said. "There's going to be a mental aspect to it, as he makes that adjustment. In this offense, you're not going to catch 100 passes. It's just not going to happen."
"But he's been in this league a long time. I don't have any concerns with him making the adjustment."
Parcells admitted that despite his confidence in his (and his staff's) ability to handle so-called "problem players," he did do a little research on Owens before giving his approval on the idea of bringing him to Dallas.
"I've had a couple of former players who know him, and I called one of them," he said. "I've had players in the past who I was warned about. 'Why did you do this? Why did you do that?' But some of those players I was warned about turned out to be some of my best guys."
"We don't make individual decisions here -- on any subject. I do give a very strong opinion on what we need to do as a football team. But then you have to consider the economics of it, and you have the domino effect on how it affects the rest of the team."
Parcells said he talked with Owens once before he gave his stamp of approval on the move, and he said the conversation he had with his new wideout was simple.
"I told him what I expect from him, to be prepared," Parcells said. "Be on time. Pay attention. Practice hard. Be in condition. But that's one thing I don't think I'll ever have to worry about, him being in condition."
In previous years, Owens' relationships with quarterbacks Donovan McNabb (in Philadelphia) and Jeff Garcia (in San Francisco) deteriorated before his departures from each city. Parcells said he did not seek input from Dallas quarterback Drew Bledsoe before giving the thumbs-up to acquire Owens.
"No. Why would I do that? I don't see that being a problem," he said. When asked why he didn't think a problem could arise between Bledsoe and Ownes, he simply said "because I'll take care of the problem."
Parcells claimed to be unaware a book Owens wrote and a T.O. reality television show that reportedly is in the works.
"This (Owens) thing has kind of taken on a life of its own," he said. "I didn't know anything about the TV show -- this is the first I've heard of it. I heard something about the book. But no, those things don't worry me at all."
"I asked two or three questions to people (when researching whether to approve the Owens signing). One of the questions that I asked was 'how does he respond to competition?' If the player responds to competition, we have a chance. If the answer is 'no,' then I might have a problem with that. With some players I've had who are a little flamboyant, if they respond to competition, they can be great players. Nobody was more flamboyant than Bryan Cox when I got him, but I loved him -- still do."
Retirement talk premature
Parcells was asked about the contract extension he signed, and if that meant that the speculation he might be entering his final season in dallas was inaccurate.
"I don't think it's good to be a lame-duck coach," he said. "If I didn't (intend to fulfill the length of the contract), I wouldn't have done it. I like it very much here in Dallas. I've been treated fairly -- that's the main thing -- and I don't think a lot of people realized how close we were to being a really good team last year."
"I've talked to a lot of coaches who have retired, and they basically agree with me. When you don't have the energy for the job, when you can't fight the battles every day, it's time to sack up the bats and go."
New-look offense not that new
The notion that the two-tight end sets Dallas will run this season are new is simply inaccurate, Parcells said.
"If you've watched us play the last three years, anyone who really evaluates football can see that we've had a fullback in the game really only about 20 percent of the time," he said. "We were already doing what we're going to do more of. It's easier for a team to defend when you put a third wide receiver into the game. What's happening now with guys like Jason Witten, (Kansas City's Tony) Gonzalez, (San Diego's Antonio) Gates -- they're causing more problems for teams defensively. It's very hard for linebackers to run with them, and it's hard for safeties to match up with them."
"I wanted two players like Jason Witten (and newcomer Anthony Fasano). If another player like that comes along next year, I'll take him, too."
The best yet?
Parcells said that the team's offseason additions -- both in free agency and in the draft -- give the 2006 team the potential to be the best since his arrival in Dallas.
"I think we have more depth on defense, a good youthful group of defensive linemen, a good group at running back, and a chance to find a (free) safety -- I don't know that we will, but we have a chance," Parcells said. "We also have a chance to have a better field goal situation -- I think that could be the understatement of the year."
Tuna Talk: Parcells Finally Speaks
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