This article was originally published in the Daily News on August 6, 2004.
The Eagles had more full-pads practices in 3 days of past training camps than they've had this
year in the first 5 days. Still, the amount of "live" hitting has surprised one of its recent victims, Terrell Owens.
"From my standpoint, I feel like, to go 'live,' you kind of take a risk at getting guys hurt - especially some of the key guys," said Owens, who suffered a hip pointer Tuesday after being crunched by linebackers Jeremiah Trotter and Dhani Jones.
"I feel like I'm one of the key guys here in the offense," he said. "I obviously want to be healthy enough to start the season. Like I said, you just have to go out there and play football. You can't worry about it. "
Controversial? Not really. Not in any sort of a real-world-inhabited-by-thinking-human-beings kind of context. Honest? Well, yeah. More honest than almost anybody else who wears a green jersey and reads word-for-word from the green script typed out by the green head coach.
"I know in San Fran we never went 'live' except when it was goal line," Owens said. "Yeah, that definitely was something new to me. I've just got to conform to the way they do things here. Whether I like it or not, this is the way things are done. It's part of the job.
"I can't really say if it's good or bad. That's just the way things are done. "
Asked if those were the kinds of things he was thinking about on Tuesday, after the big hit that kept him on the ground for about a minute - and kept the gathered thousands along the sidelines trying to gasp and hold their breath simultaneously - Owens said this:
"Yeah, pretty much. Like I said, we never went 'live. ' I've never gone 'live' unless it was goal line. Some coaches, they have their way of practicing and that's the way coach [Andy]
Reid does it. Like I said, it was something that went across my mind, like, this is 'live' and for me to try to remain healthy. I would like to be that at the beginning of the season. "
And so, a fresh breeze swept across the Lehigh Valley yesterday, and it wasn't just because of the cool front and the showers. T.O. is here, as you might have heard, and he is going to tell you what he thinks. Adulation and whatnot rain down every time Owens does anything, although it was a little quieter yesterday. As he said, "They were kind of dead today. I don't know what was going on - I guess they were enjoying this cool weather like everybody. "
Still, amid the hoopla, there is business being conducted and there is this reality: that T.O. is dropping just enough passes, and jumping offside and stuff just often enough, that he isn't happy about it. He says the coaches are in his ear about it, too.
This is not a great shock or anything, with a new player in a new offense with a new quarterback speaking, at least somewhat, a new set of signals at the line of scrimmage. It's just another part of the picture, a wider view, along with the hosannas and the high-fives.
"I'm trying to make it easy but I still have some things to work out," Owens said. "Today, I had a few mistakes. I'm not used to that. I'm playing, sort of like, some different positions. They're moving me around a little bit. But, for myself, I know I'm making way too many mistakes. I'm thinking too much when I'm going out there, and then I'm jumping offsides because I'm thinking and I'm not hearing the whole cadence when Donovan calls it.
"Overall, the offense is pretty much the same [as San Francisco's]. I'm just trying to think the plays through. There's a timing thing where we have to get to the line and get everything going. So, like I said, I've made way too many mistakes. I know that personally. I don't need the coaches to tell me that, but they've come to me - especially my position coach - and told me I need to work on a few things.
"So, we're going to start with that today and probably go in a little early and try and get some of these plays down so it will be second nature to me," he said.
The assessment is as unvarnished and unfiltered as you are likely to hear around here. You wonder if it will be contagious, on some level - because every time Owens opens his mouth, what emerges is confidence.
And while you can't ask people to change their personalities, you wonder what the effect will be among his teammates. And then you wonder, if it is contagious, will it be good for a team that really has been very, very successful for several years now by keeping its collective nose in close proximity to every available grindstone.
It is the stuff you think about in August, as you listen to Owens talk about bringing in his own personal massage therapist from California, and about how impressed he has been with the Green Horde that has made the daily trek up the Northeast Extension, and how he knows that the enthusiasm of these particular fans also has a flip side, and that he is under no illusions about that whole thing.
But are they the most passionate in the NFL?
"Definitely," Owens said.
"By far. I think, as far as being rowdy, the Raiders and the
Eagles, they're neck and neck. "
And so it went yesterday, T.O. being T.O., still months away from figuring out what it all means.