Ravens: Owens was never here anyway
After agreeing Tuesday to a settlement rescinding the March 4 trade that brought the four-time Pro Bowl receiver to Baltimore, the Ravens promptly put their brief association with Owens behind them.
"We never had him in the locker room, so we never conversed with him and we don't know what we had," punter Dave Zastudil said. "I know what we had from last year, though, and I think we'll be fine."
The Ravens thought they had significantly improved a glaring weakness from 2003 by obtaining Owens from the San Francisco 49ers for a second-round draft pick. Although the NFL initially approved the trade, Owens, contending that he should be a free agent, worked out a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Owens never took a physical in Baltimore, and the Ravens never got the chance to hold a news conference where he could don a purple hat and hold up a Baltimore jersey with his name on the back.
The uncertainty surrounding the trade made it easier for the Ravens to adjust to the news that second-year quarterback Kyle Boller would not be throwing passes to Owens after all.
"I'm happy for him. I wish he was here, but he's not," right tackle Orlando Brown said. "He's not a teammate, so I get to hit him."
Although Brown and Owens both play offense, the Ravens' defense should get a shot at the wide receiver in 2004 because Baltimore is scheduled to play in Philadelphia.
"It will probably be motivation for somebody on this team, him saying he didn't want to be here," Brown said.
The settlement, reached before an arbitrator could rule on Owens' case to be a free agent, deemed that the Ravens get back their second-round pick and receive the Eagles' fifth-round selection.
"We'll use both to improve the 2004 Ravens," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "As I said a few weeks ago at the start of free agency, my head is not in the sand regarding our receiver position. We want to get better there, and we'll keep trying to do so between now and the start of the season."
No matter who the Ravens get, he won't have the credentials of Owens. Although his antics on and off the field infuriated the 49ers coaching staff and many of his teammates, Owens averaged 93 catches, 1,316 yards and 13 touchdowns over the past four seasons.
"Obviously, he's a great receiver. He would help any team," Zastudil said.
Especially the Ravens, whose leading receiver in 2003 was tight end Todd Heap with 57 receptions. Wide receiver Travis Taylor ranked second with 39 catches, ahead of Marcus Robinson, who signed as a free agent with the Minnesota Vikings four days after Baltimore made the trade for Owens.
Owens was supposed to provide balance for an attack that relied heavily on running back Jamal Lewis, whose 2,066 yards rushing was the second-best single-season total in NFL history.
Lewis faces federal drug conspiracy charges in Atlanta, which could affect his status for the 2004 season.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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