Stick a microphone in front of Terrell Owens and fireworks often ensue.That was the case Thursday night when ESPN.com contributor Graham Bensinger sat down with the controversial Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver at Owens' home in Moorestown, N.J. Owens discussed his tumultuous summer, his relationship with Donovan McNabb, his performance in the Super Bowl, his contract situation, his future and many of the headlines from his past. Here are video highlights and an edited transcript of the 57-minute interview:
|EXCLUSIVE VIDEO FROM ESPN.COM'S INTERVIEW WITH TO|
|Owens talks with ESPN.com contributor Graham Bensinger about ...
The Super Bowl: People take the things I say out of context
Contract talks: Somebody's got to win, somebody's got to lose
Donovan McNabb: We'd be in a better situation [with Favre]
Touchdown celebrations: I just go out there and try to have fun His Super Bowl regrets: Putting career on the line
Achieving success: Sometimes the truth hurts
Media attention: It's almost like I'm in a no-win situation with the media
Graham Bensinger: I've known you for a few years now. I can see (the strain) in your face. I could see it in the offseason, and I can see it now. Are you happy? Terrell Owens: Yeah, I mean, right now, there have been some ups and downs. But overall, I think the things that have gone on, I put them in the back of my mind. I've put those things on the shelf, and when I go out there on the field, I try to have fun. But, yeah, overall, I would say that I'm pretty happy. GB: Enjoying the season? TO: Oh yeah, definitely. I mean, our record (4-3) really doesn't indicate the caliber (of) team that we are. But, we're maybe just a few plays here and there from really being like 6-1, something like that. But, you know, we really got our butts whooped down in Dallas. So, I think that's the only real whooping that we took. So, at this stage, we're 4-3, about to go into (a stretch of) divisional play -- the Redskins, the Giants and the Cowboys. We've got those guys coming up, so we're still in the hunt. GB: You seem to have gone from enjoying the media attention, the hype, the craze, to completely secluding yourself from it. Why?
TO: Well, it's almost like I'm in a no-win situation with the media sometimes. ... You know, I know how the media is. I know how TV works. They'll throw a question out there and they'll edit it. You know, the way they want to put it out there to the world. So, my thing is I just to let my play do the talking for me, and that has been my stance this year.GB: What's the biggest difference between Terrell Owens now and the Terrell Owens of one year ago? TO: I just feel like I've learned a lot as far as the business side of football. It really hit home how dirty and cruel of a business that this is. Everybody always says that this is a fun game (and) that it is. But behind the scenes, it's a real dirty game. I mean, in my situation, I think there are a lot of people who can vouch for me when I say that, "Yeah, I deserve the money that I was asking for." And, I've seen so many guys that have gone and come in this league, you know, for no apparent reason at all. I've seen guys come in one week and they (get) cut the next. Or come in here for a couple of days and (they're) cut the next. So, it's a cutthroat business. I had to really not fool myself into thinking that there is loyalty with the franchises of these teams. ... I'm very reluctant to trust people now when they say things. And you just have to take a business approach to things, that's how it goes. GB: What makes you successful? TO: My determination, my drive. The way that I was raised -- just keeping my family and my grandmother at heart. I just try to put herself in my situation at times, almost like what would she do in this situation, or what would she not do? So, my family is very dear to me. When I came out of college in '96 and I had to do all those combine workouts, they were motivation enough for me ... (to) impress those scouts to have the best time or ace the shuttle drills and all those things. So, my family is very important to me, and I know they look up to me. So, if I'm successful in anything, success breeds success.
|“||Even if it wasn't a contractual situation, I still have to be smart about my body. I mean, that was the same approach that I took when I got hurt prior to playing in the playoffs or in the Super Bowl. So my approach is still the same. If I can get out there and play, then I will play. But, I'm not going to risk my career or my health at the expense of the Eagles. ”|
|— TO on whether his injury has changed his approach on the field|
|“||I said it probably in regards to my own conditions because I hadn't practiced with the team since my injury. I never referred to Donovan in that comment. A lot of people speculated, and they just assumed that I was talking about Donovan. That's not what I mean, and that's not what I meant. A lot of people, take a lot of things that I say out of context. If I didn't say his name in particular, then I wasn't talking about him. ”|
|— TO, denying he was criticizing Donovan when he said he wasn't the one who got tired in the Super Bowl|
|“||What I was doing and what I experienced was bigger than the Super Bowl. Number one, I was just exercising my faith in God that I could go out there and do the impossible -- according to a lot of the media, according to the world. ”|
|— TO on playing in the Super Bowl|
TO: Well, like I said, I know there was a waiver that we talked about. Obviously, they're saying they have no knowledge of it. So, it's not something phantom that I've made up. So, if they're saying that just to save face, then you know, that's what they have to live with.GB: Why do you think they have to deny it? TO: Not sure, not sure. But why would I openly say that I signed a waiver? Because it would have released them of any reliability, had I gotten hurt in the Super Bowl, because number one, the doctor didn't medically clear me. So, if anything would have happened, they wouldn't have been responsible for it. GB: Is that frustrating for you that the organization almost tries to make you out to be the villain? TO: Well, I mean, I've said it, and I've heard it. If you align expectations with reality, then you'll never be disappointed. So, this particular time and point in my career, and things that have happened since training camp ... you know, I expected worse. GB: You said you always have a passion to win, but sometimes that passion is misdiagnosed by people. How so? TO: There are a number of ways -- even just the way that I score touchdowns and I celebrate. At one particular point in time, especially in San Francisco, I remember commentators saying I should just get in the end zone and act like I had been there before. And probably because I had played with one of the greatest receivers of all time in Jerry Rice, and that's what he did, and they always talked about Barry (Sanders) scoring so many touchdowns, and he doesn't do anything. But, now you know, I have a good friend in Chad Johnson who does it. And now it's like, everybody is applauding it. You know what I mean? So, it's almost like I feel like sometimes it's me against the world. GB: You just recently scored your 100th career receiving touchdown, which puts you in remarkably elite company with only you and Marvin Harrison as the two active players to have accomplished the feat. What does it mean for you? TO: I didn't really think too much of it. Obviously, it's a great accomplishment. I guess if I look down the road some time, I'll look back on it and and see how special it is. But to me, it was just another touchdown. You know, I expect to score every week ...
|“||It's almost like I feel like sometimes it's me against the world. ”|
|— TO on his philosophy on life|
GB: What do you make of the Eagles' 4-3 start this season?TO: I think a lot of the injuries have played a big part in some of our losses. I just feel that if Donovan wasn't hurt as he was, our record probably would indicate we were better. GB: Donovan has obviously had trouble throwing, especially deep. He didn't complete any of his first 12 passes vs. Denver. How has that affected the team? TO: Well, obviously I think our wins and losses are really predicated on how he plays. I just feel like, you know, everybody can point fingers at our defense, but it doesn't matter. Even when we were 28 (points) down, I still had in the back of my mind that we could come back -- had our offense gotten in sync. I just honestly feel with playmakers like myself, LJ (Smith), and obviously Brian Westbrook, that we could have gotten back in the game. And that we did. You know, like I said, it's hard to win ballgames when you have turnovers, and we had a turnover right when we were about to go into probably tie the game. That killed our momentum, and it killed our drive. GB: Your friend Michael Irvin recently said that if Brett Favre was the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, they'd be undefeated right now. What do you think of that comment?
|“||I just felt like it was an embarrassment. It just shows the lack of class that they had. ”|
|— TO on the Eagles' failure to recognize his 100th career TD catch|
GB: What do the Eagles need to do to get back on track?TO: There's nothing the Eagles need to do in particular. I just feel like, obviously, injuries have taken a toll -- especially on the offensive side of the ball. And Donovan, obviously, is a key component to our success and our wins and losses. And if he doesn't play well, sometimes it's kind of hard when we're going three-and-out as an offense, and we're putting the defense on the field -- like short minutes at a time, and obviously they can't sustain those long drives and teams are scoring back-to-back on us. GB: I've always wanted to hear this from TO. Your theory of "If you got it, flaunt it." TO: It's basically just being confident in who you are. It's like if you and I were in a contest or we were going out to the beach, you would probably be reluctant to take your shirt off. Right, but in my case, I work out, I feel like I have a nice body, then I wouldn't have a problem taking my shirt off. I have a number of friends who tell me if they had my body they would probably walk around naked. So that's basically where that comes from. You just got to be confident in who you are, and don't let anybody say or tell you anything different. GB: Take me through the process of coming up with a touchdown celebration.
TO: Some of them are spur of the moment, and sometimes during the course of the week I try to think of some things that are creative. And, whatever comes to mind, if I feel like it's going to be within the confines of the celebration rules, then I do it. If not, it really depends on the game. Like last week when I scored a touchdown but (it was an) inopportune time for me to be celebrating.GB: How much time do you spend coming up with them? TO: Not too much at all. I could be driving home and if I'm thinking about it, then I will try to come up with something. Or, if I'm in the locker room and I'm playing Dominos and messing around with some of the guys or we get on the subject of celebrations when we see highlights. Guys will start chiming in and start talking about different things and that's when my mind starts to work a little bit. GB: Do you practice them beforehand? TO: No, not really. If it's something simple, it's just something that you can do right on the spot. GB: Never? TO: No, I haven't. GB: Your favorite? TO: Probably with the pom-poms. And probably second, everybody liked the Ray Lewis. So, other than that I just go out there and try to have fun and try (to) go be creative. GB: The one you haven't yet done that you'd like to.
TO: I don't know yet. I haven't thought about it, but I got a couple up my sleeve. But they'll come out.GB: You've told me that the NFL's very contradictory in its touchdown celebration regulations in that you play as a team, yet you can't celebrate as a team. Your thoughts on the rules? TO: They allow us to celebrate individually. I think if I could celebrate with my teammates and come up with some group things, then that's what I would do. But, unfortunately, according to the rules, I have to celebrate by myself. So, I think that's where a lot of people can look at me and say I'm selfish and that I'm (not) celebrating with my teammates, but I can't. You know, some people are just not up to par with the rules of the NFL. GB: Jerry Rice once told you, as you stated in your book, "At some point you're going to have to learn to be politically correct, give in and give them what they want." What do you think of that? TO: Regardless of the situation, I'm a person who is going to be honest and straight up and I'm just going to tell you, sometimes, the brutal honest truth. So, I understand where it's coming from, but I don't think it has really helped him in any situations to be politically correct. Because I feel like, if that was the case, then he probably would have retired a Niner. Even after going to a couple of teams, they would have given him the opportunity to retire as a 49er. But, unfortunately, being politically correct all his career didn't cut it. GB: How so? TO: I think they would have given him the opportunity to retire as a 49er. And I think that's what he wanted to do once he got cut from Denver. GB: How do you think the Eagles organization would have responded if your desire for more money hadn't gone more public? TO: I'm not sure. I think at some point it would have gone public. I think guys have taken the silent route and still haven't gotten contracts. I think that was the same situation with Brian Westbrook. According to some sources, that's the approach that David Akers tried to take. Neither one of those guys have gotten their contracts resolved, either. And they took the silent route. So who's to say which route is better than the other? We're all in the same boat.
|“||I'm just going to play the season out. I'm going to go out there and let my play do the talking for me. I'm done with the contract situation until we have no more games to play. ”|
|— TO on when he'll revisit the contract situation|
|“||Why would you be satisfied, especially when I know what I've done in the offseason, the toll that I've taken on my body, things that I've done to stay on the field. When I've gotten injured, when I've had to go to doctors in the offseason the last three years. I've had to take countless number of shots just to rehab, just to get my body ready for the next season. ”|
TO: That's my prerogative if I want to sell my house or not. Maybe there is a reason why I'm putting it up for sale. My thing is I'm really not looking to be here, probably no more than the next three to five years, so who knows. I just want to be happy. If it's here then I would love to be here. If not, then you've got to move on. I have enjoyed (playing here), and I'm still enjoying football. If there is a situation where they have a change of heart and they want to come to their senses and do the right thing, I would be more than happy to be here. But, at this time, I'm being honest with myself and really trying to look toward the future. And I just don't see myself really being here. And, that's not because I don't want to be here, but I just don't foresee them trying to do the necessary things to keep me here.GB: Then what do you see happening beyond this year? TO: I'm not sure. That's something not a lot of people are waiting to see. But I'm really just focused right now on just trying to make it to the playoffs and get the team back to the Super Bowl. So, who's to say? We may get to the playoffs, win a Super Bowl, and they might be like, "Hey! Let's pay him!" Then again, they may get to the playoffs, win or lose, get to the Super Bowl and we may have to part ways. Either way, I'm fine with it, because I'm confident in whatever I do, I'm going to be successful. It doesn't matter what anyone says about me or what anybody thinks about me, when I get on the football field, the best relationship I need is with that football. And once I get it in my hands, I make plays. GB: I'm sure you'd love an additional pay day after the Super Bowl, too, from the Eagles. If that didn't happen and you had your choice of any team in the NFL to go to next season, who would it be? TO: I'm not sure. I obviously talk it over with my agent. I would probably go with the best offers out there, and the best possibilities for me to go in there and fit in their system and succeed. I don't really want to worry about not playing to the best of my ability or going somewhere and failing, because that's not going to happen. I just got to go somewhere and help a team get to the next level. If they feel like I'm a missing piece to get them to the playoffs or even to the Super Bowl, then that's where I want to go. GB: What was it like for you growing up in Alexander City, Ala.? TO: It wasn't rough. I didn't know anything more than Alexander City, so compared to what I know now, it was very slow. Very slow, compared to California and being out here in Philly and being in the nightlife of Atlanta. But it's just like any normal small town. Everybody works, everybody knows everybody, you go to the football games on Friday, same with basketball. During the summertime you have your Little League sports.
|“||I'm a good football player. If you start questioning my character, my integrity, that's not a fair assessment of who I am, especially when all it is is hearsay. ”|