Former Teammates, Coaches Address T.O. Antics

Terrell Owens is once again one of the leading receivers in the NFL, but so far this year he hasn't been the focus of off-field controversy. Owens' former teammate, Artis Hicks, his former offensive coordinator, Brad Childress, and his current head coach, Wade Phillips, all addressed the legend that is Terrell Owens.

To put it in Brad Childress terms, he and Terrell Owens aren't likely to build a campfire and sing Kumbaya. However, the tensions between Childress and Owens from their days together in Philadelphia appear to be dissipating with time.

In training camp in 2005, the Philadelphia Eagles banned Owens for a week after he reportedly got in a heated exchange with head coach Andy Reid. Owens also confirmed a heated exchange with Childress, who at the time was the offensive coordinator for the Eagles.

In November 2005, Owens was suspended from the Eagles after criticizing them for not doing more to publicly acknowledge his 100th career touchdown and then saying the team would be better off with Brett Favre as their quarterback rather than Donovan McNabb.

Childress said Wednesday that the tensions should be in the past as the Vikings prepare to play the Cowboys, Owens' current employer, on Sunday.

"I think that was more business-related," Childress said of past run-ins with Owens. "He actually stepped over the line during the preseason (when the two teams played this year), he came over and the referee had to tell him to go back past the restraining line there. But had a hug and a ‘How you doing, Brad,' so I think that's all in the past."

During the 2006 offseason, Owens was traded from Philadelphia to the Dallas Cowboys and Childress was hired as the head coach of the Vikings. While Owens' antics and criticisms of McNabb, coaches and the organization grew tiresome for Eagles' officials, former Eagles teammate Artis Hicks, now with the Vikings, said Owens was a good teammate.

"As a teammate, I think he was one of the best guys in the locker room. When you would see the receivers together, he was always like the leading personality amongst that group," Hicks said. "He'd always be in there playing cards or going out to eat. They would go over to his house for dinner and watch ‘Monday Night Football.' Just stuff to bond as a unit, he was great with that type of stuff."

He even credited Owens' antics for helping players get through training camp with something to talk about and laugh about.

"As linemen, we used to like it because we had stuff to keep us laughing in training camp. He would always be making comments and doing things and saying stuff. When we were coming off the field, rumor would be spreading, like, ‘Hey, did you hear what T.O. said today?' We would all get a hold of the paper and read it to have something to laugh at. It was funny," Hicks said. "After a while, you were just like, OK, that's T.O. Everybody is different, everybody has their own personality. It was just accepted that that's T.O. You can't take it too serious."

Childress mentioned one moment from Owens that the coaches weren't pleased with in Philadelphia, but it did show the competitive side of the confident wide receiver.

"I can still remember him going out on the field, although we weren't very happy with it at the time, him racing our fastest guy on the team, taking bets, and the wide receivers saying, ‘Well, I have got my money on this guy, this is the fastest,' and him stepping up after practice and smoking the guy by six, seven yards – and that's for a guy that's supposedly lost a step, and it was impressive. I'm just happy nobody pulled a hamstring," said Childress, who believes Owens still has that burst.

Owens spent last year in a new offensive system in Dallas, and Childress thinks the wide receiver's experience with that system after one year is starting to pay off.

"Last year was his first year playing in what we call a passing tree, numbered system. He played in a West Coast version of that offense throughout his career so I think that was probably foreign to him," Childress said. "I think he has probably had time to build a rapport with his quarterback. He is doing the same things in terms of making big plays, catching the football, making somebody miss. He is extremely physical. He can run through arm tackles; he is like a running back in that regard. I have seen him catch all versions of passes, whether it be shallow crosses or basic crosses or go-routes."

Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips said Owens has been a model player, practicing hard, asking questions in meetings – he was accused of falling asleep in meetings in Philadelphia – and being a team player.

"I think (he's) different than the image put out or whatever. I didn't know he worked as hard. It's hard to get him out of there sometimes. He would go in and run routes at running back if you don't watch him. He really works hard," Phillips said. "To me that's a great quality for any player, but for a great player like him I was pleased that he was that way. That says a lot."

Players and coaches also talk about Owens being clever. Phillips credits Owens with giving hard-charging running back Marion Barber the nickname "Marian the Barbarian." Before last week's game, Owens left a note on his locker for reporters: "Dear Reporters,
Due to the magnitude of this week's game and high volume of questions for the Original 81 about the other 81, I will be taking all questions immediately following Sunday's game.
Sincerely, Terrell Owens 81"
p.s. Getcha Popcorn Ready


The note was in reference to the Cowboys' game with the New England Patriots and Randy Moss, who had switched his jersey number to 81 when he joined the Patriots this offseason.

"I think with trash talking within the league, interviews and stuff like that, you've got to rate him in the top five. He's very clever," Hicks said, referencing Owens' note last week.

Hicks said he didn't know how much Owens talked trash with opposing defenders, but Vikings safety Dwight Smith would seem like a logical candidate to start jawing with Owens this week.

"I've seen Dwight getting into it pretty good, too. Maybe him and Dwight will get into it a little bit, but it's just fun. Nothing harmful is intended. I think they'll try to get into each other's head and try to psych each other out a little bit. It's harmless as long as it stays between the lines," Hicks said.

Especially enjoyable for Hicks were Owens' touchdown celebrations, from grabbing pom-poms from cheerleaders and doing his own cheer to hiding a Sharpie to give an autograph after a touchdown, even though some of those antics drew fines from the NFL.

One that stands out for Hicks was Owens mocking a Ray Lewis' pregame ritual of throwing grass up in the air after entering a stadium. After scoring a touchdown against the Ravens, Owens started breaking into that routine, but Hicks inadvertently messed it up.

"I ran over and I was trying to give him a high-five and I didn't realize he was doing the dance. I kind of screwed it up for him. I was on camera and it looked like a blooper. He's in the middle of his dance and I run over, chest bump him and his knees are staggering," Hicks said.

"He's a good guy. He gets a lot of negative attention, especially last year when a lot of stuff was going on, but people have to realize when the camera's off, he's one of the better guys that I've ever met in this league."

The irony of it all is that one of Owens' more memorable celebrations was when he was with the San Francisco 49ers and celebrated a touchdown by running to midfield of Texas Stadium and slamming the ball on the Cowboys' trademark star. Four years later, in 2006, Owens was and still is playing for the Cowboys.

"You don't want to burn bridges wherever you're at because you never know where you might end back up. But when you're an elite player like he is, a lot of times those bridges can be rebuilt," Hicks said.

NOTES

  • Linebacker Vinny Ciurciu (ankle) and fullback Naufahu Tahi (knee) did not participate in Wednesday's practice. QB Tarvaris Jackson (groin), S Dwight Smith (hamstring) and DE Erasmus James (shoulder) were limited.

    For the Cowboys, WR Terry Glenn (knee) is out, CB Anthony Henry (ankle) did not participate, while CB Courtney Brown (biceps), S Keith Davis (shoulder) and FB Oliver Hoyte (neck) participated fully.

  • Vikings coach Brad Childress said Bryant McKinnie could end up with a tough task this week if the offense gets into too many "must-pass" situations. That's when the Cowboys end up rushing DeMarcus Ware a lot: "A guy like DeMarcus Ware is going to athletically break down a tackle like that, so it's a combination of route running, the quarterback getting the ball out of his hand and in the run game, as I say about Jon Runyan all the time, being able to put your hands on somebody and stick them in the dirt. It changes the dynamic in terms of how they feel."

  • Former Vikings tight end Richard Angulo signed a practice-squad contract with the Cleveland Browns. Stephen Spach, a tight end who was with the Vikings this offseason, also had a tryout with the Browns this week, as did former Vikings safety Jack Brewer.
  • Former Vikings cornerback Dovonte Edwards had a tryout with the Detroit Lions.

  • Defensive tackle Howard Green, who spent the offseason with the Vikings, signed with the Seattle Seahawks.

  • Linebacker Jordan Beck, who had a tryout with the Vikings in September, signed with the Denver Broncos.

  • Former Vikings wide receiver Koren Robinson, arrested during training camp last year and subsequently released and signed by the Green Bay Packers, was reinstated by the league on Wednesday.


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