By John Boyle Herald Columnist
RENTON -— Never mind that Pete Carroll made a fairly significant announcement about the Seahawks’ quarterback competition, the biggest story at training camp Tuesday was a player who wasn’t even at training camp Tuesday.
Welcome, Seahawks fans, to the T.O. Show.
The Seahawks signed Terrell Owens following a Monday workout that Carroll called “phenomenal.” And although Owens won’t begin practicing with his new team until this morning, the 38-year-old receiver who hasn’t played in the NFL since 2010 was the focus of more attention Tuesday than was Carroll’s announcement that Matt Flynn will start next this weekend’s preseason game.
That’s the kind of attention that comes with signing Owens, one of the most polarizing figures in sports. While it probably isn’t fair to say that the circus is coming to town, we may want to have a few tents ready just in case.
Everywhere Owens has gone, he has been the center of attention, whether it has been for his tremendous talent, his memorable touchdown celebrations or his clashes with quarterbacks. But by signing Owens, the Seahawks are taking a gamble that Owens, after a year away from the NFL, is ready to just be a part of the team, not the center of attention.
“He is extremely hungry and he is humble, and he is determined to finish his career on a good note,” Carroll said. “He wants to be part of a team and he wants to play football. … It was quite clear where he’s coming from and what he’d like to accomplish.”
Before deciding to sign Owens, Carroll had a conversation with Carson Palmer, who played for Carroll at USC and with Owens in Cincinnati in 2010. Palmer quickly put to rest any notions that Owens, who has been critical of quarterbacks in the past — just ask Donovan McNabb or Jeff Garcia — would be a problem for the Seahawks’ starting quarterback, whoever that may be.
“He loved working with him, loved playing with him,” Carroll said of Palmer. “He worked out with him for a couple of years in the offseason, knows him really well. Carson was really gracious to just share what he felt about the guy. It was in-depth and I was really pleased to hear what I heard.”
Carroll says there is no risk in this signing. He believes that Owens, now humbled, is ready to help a team win, not fret over how many catches he has each week. Carroll also has faith that his young locker room is strong enough to not be fazed even if Owens were to act up.
“That’s not even a topic around here,” Carroll said. “Our team is so strong and our guys are so together and our message and what we stand for and all of that. There’s no one guy that’s going to do that to this football team, not even close. … We’re a bunch of young guys growing, and if some older guys want to fit into it, they’re going to have to do it our way. That was a really clear statement to Terrell and he knows what he’s getting into.”
And in a lot of ways, Carroll is right about this being a low-risk move.
The financial cost of signing Owens is insignificant by NFL standards, and if Owens shows up this week and has a poor attitude, he will be gone. If after a few practices it becomes evident that Owens’ impressive workout was a mirage, Carroll won’t hesitate to move on, just as he has with so many other players whose tenures in Seattle can be measured in days, not seasons.
There still is potential danger in signing Owens. While it is entirely possible that Owens is truly humbled and a changed man, the Seahawks can’t be 100 percent certain that he won’t at some point become a distraction. And even though it will be easy to move on if that happened in the preseason, it would be a much messier situation if Owens were to be a productive player and good teammate for, say, eight weeks, then suddenly decide he is unhappy with the his role on the team.
But for now, rather than focus on the possible negatives, the Seahawks are looking at Owens for what he could be in an ideal world. They’re hoping Owens, still a physical specimen as he’s approaching 39, can be an example for young receivers with his work ethic. They’re hoping that even with his prime behind him, Owens is still talented enough to be the physical presence they had with the 2010-version of Mike Williams. They’re hoping that the circus will never come to Seattle.
“He’s a good teammate,” said defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, who played with Owens in Cincinnati two years ago. “… My experiences in Cincinnati were great. I had a couple of times to hang out with him and gain some knowledge for myself as far as how to keep my body in the offseason, how to keep myself ready to go. He shared a lot of things with a young guy like me.
“He brings an incredible work ethic. In my four years of playing, I haven’t seen anybody work as hard as he worked.”
Can Terrell Owens really be a positive influence on a young team? Can he help Seattle’s receivers improve and be an asset, not a pain in the — um, rear — for whichever quarterback ends up winning the Seahawks’starting job?
Carroll is counting on it, even if that may seem like a far-fetched scenario to anyone who has paid attention to Owens’ previous antics.
“He’s humbled, and he’s looking for a chance to play,” Carroll said. “That was a very, very long football season for him last year to sit out. … He’s really poised to make a really good impact on this football team.
“He wants to play football and he wants to help a team win, and he’ll do whatever it takes to do that.”
So is it possible? Can the Sharpie-in-his-sock, pom-pom waving, “Get your popcorn ready” receiver just be a team guy?
Maybe. But just in case, let’s not pack up those circus tents just yet.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.