The questions arising initially are: Will Terrell Owens and the public-relations cyclone that inevitably attends his presence be a distraction to the Seattle Seahawks? And will he be a disruptive influence on a young team developing its identity?
But the only question the Seahawks need to answer right now is this: Can Terrell Owens help us win games?
The sideshow debates are irrelevant until Owens proves he’s relevant on the field. And he’s got a long way to go.
The Seahawks wouldn’t bother taking a risk on a 38-year-old who’s been out of the league for two years, with a history of troublesome behavior, if they didn’t feel a desperate need for a big-bodied receiver.
They have Sidney Rice coming off two shoulder surgeries, and talented receivers Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate, who are of smaller stature. The rest are in a group battling for a few other spots.
Owens was a national story at training camp Wednesday because of who he used to be: A six-time Pro Bowl player with 153 touchdown passes for five other NFL teams. And also for what he used to be: Noted for his involvement in blatant self-promotion, controversy or discord at every stop.
For most of his first day, Owens was just another guy out there. He’s rusty, he’s in a new town with a new team. He was appropriately low-key in all regards, and his play was mostly ordinary.
“He didn’t have his legs under him today, that was obvious,” said cornerback Richard Sherman. “Better to ask later how he’s doing, but you still understand who he is and what he’s done around the league.”
Owens ran a sub-4.5 40-yard dash during his tryout, which got the attention of coach Pete Carroll, who has lately become the Patron Saint of Retread Receivers.
Owens came into the league as a physical specimen who resembled a computer-generated superhero. And he’s still fast and smooth, and a sharp route-runner.
But on his first day out, he did not seem as physical as he once was. For example, several times the Seahawks’ big corners Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman handled him. Of course, they do that to a lot of receivers. And this was not only Owens’ first day, it also was in full pads.
But he stood out on several plays, one a deep pass from Matt Flynn when he got behind fleet rookie Jeremy Lane, and another when he motioned across the formation before quickly turning upfield to find an open spot in the secondary.
In evaluating Owens, it’s fair to consider that he’s not expected to be a No. 1 receiver in Seattle. But he’d be of value if only as a reserve who can create matchup problems for opponents.
If he can’t, he’ll be gone. Carroll loves giving second (or last) chances, but he’s proven that if you don’t contribute, you’re down the highway.
Eight cameras were lined up for his post-practice interview session, and for the first time, the Seahawks’ public relations department pulled out the plush blue ropes to hold back the flock of scribes.
Owens said the practice didn’t go as well as he would have liked, but it was a step in the right direction, and he was grateful for the opportunity the Seahawks are providing.
No doubt. He couldn’t stick recently with the Allen (Texas) Wranglers of the Indoor Football League.
And his headlines and attention in recent years have been for his financial woes – which led to an appearance on the Dr. Phil Show, where mothers of three of his children assailed him for being a deadbeat dad.
So, yes, the chance to make an NFL team and almost a million dollars has to look pretty good to him.
The past two years, he said, have been life-changing and have caused him to mature. He now will let his actions speak louder than his words, he said.
We will wish him well if this maturity helps the Seahawks win games, or, of more importance, allows his children to get the amount of support to which they are entitled.
But it’s fair to be skeptical.
Owens walked past me as he was being led to the interview area by a team staffer. Owens looked at the podium and grumbled: “I have to stand the whole time damn.”
Surely he was tired from his first day, but the comment sounded vastly different from the tone of a man who stood in front of the microphones and was grateful for the email@example.com