- The Washington Times - Friday, November 19, 2004

Terrell Owens leads the NFL in contrived antics, well-earned enemies and touchdown catches. On Monday night, however, the Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver set a single-game record for in-your-face bad taste:

• Owens appeared in a sexually suggestive pregame promotional skit on “Monday Night Football” in which actress Nicollette Sheridan jumped out of a towel and into his arms.

• After scoring his first touchdown of the night, he pretended to be an ice skater gliding across the field.

• After his second, he stopped and preened on the Dallas Cowboys logo in the end zone.

• After his third, he delivered a dunk over the goal post.

Was it all too much?

According to Owens, it wasn’t nearly enough.

“Actually, I planned on about five [touchdown celebrations],” Owens said yesterday. “Every week I’m trying to get guys with suggestions. I’m running out, but I’m open to suggestions.”

Viewers of the “MNF” telecast offered this suggestion Tuesday: Stop. Please.

The Federal Communications Commission received thousands of complaints about the skit. FCC chairman Michael Powell criticized ABC for airing the sketch — designed to promote its hot new hit “Desperate Housewives” — and promised his agency would review the matter.

ABC apologized. Owens followed with an apology of his own, a rarity for a player who says he’s sorry about as often as he keeps his mouth shut.

“I felt like it was clean. … It just really got taken out of context with a lot of people, and I apologize for that,” said Owens, who was excused from yesterday’s practice for personal reasons. “I didn’t think it would have offended anyone and if it did, I apologize. … Anything I get involved with, I’m obviously a target.”

If there is a bull’s-eye on Owens’ No.81 jersey, he put it there.

Owens made in-your-face touchdown celebrations his signature in his previous NFL life with the San Francisco 49ers. He stomped on the Cowboys logo at midfield of Texas Stadium. He pulled a Sharpie out of his sock and autographed the ball for a fan after scoring. He grabbed pom-poms and joined a routine by the 49ers’ cheerleaders.

“Why would I regret anything?” Owens asked rhetorically in August before conceding his behavior had been stubborn and selfish.

If his end zone antics could be seen as over-the-top and irrational exuberance, his exit from the 49ers was far more problematic. Owens yelled at his coaches on the sideline and, after a difficult season, demanded to be traded.

The 49ers accommodated their star with a trade to the Baltimore Ravens. But Owens objected, saying he wouldn’t accept the trade and wouldn’t report because the Ravens lacked a top quarterback. So he got his wish again and was traded to the powerful Eagles, a contender quarterbacked by the talented Donovan McNabb — with whom Owens works out in the offseason.

The questions for the receiver-poor Eagles were these: Would adding the immensely talented Owens put a team that had lost three straight NFC Championship games over the top? Or would he prove to be an irritant because of his outrageous personality?

The results for the Eagles have been overwhelmingly positive. They’re 8-1 and cruising to a fourth consecutive NFC East title and homefield advantage in the playoffs for a third straight year.

That is largely because of Owens, who leads the league with 12 touchdown catches and 884 receiving yards. He leads the NFC with 55 receptions.

Last season Eagles receivers combined for 126 catches, 1,726 yards and just five touchdowns. Owens is on pace for 21 touchdown catches, one shy of Jerry Rice’s NFL record.

“I really enjoy Terrell,” said Andy Reid, the Eagles’ stolid coach. “He loves to play the game, and he’s a good person, too. I can handle all that [other stuff]. I’ll welcome him into my locker room any time.”

If there were any apprehensions among the players, they were smoothed by McNabb.

Owens feuded with 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia — and, in fact, publicly questioned Garcia’s sexual preferences — but there’s mutual admiration between Owens and the low-key McNabb.

“Terrell brought a different type of attitude, brought his playmaking ability as well as his enthusiasm for the game,” McNabb said. “When the ball’s put in his [area], he’ll come down with it and make a big play out of it.

“The things that we’ve been able to do, no one has seen that here before. We’re definitely excited about having him. We’re all having fun out there, and I guess the fun has just begun.”

That might depend, though, on what you consider fun.

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