ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Terrell Owens isn't ready to give back the key to the city just yet.
Though bluntly describing his statistics as "pathetic," the Buffalo Bills receiver on Wednesday shrugged off suggestions that he's lost a step in his 14th NFL season. As for the guarantee he made last spring to Buffalo mayor Byron Brown that he'll score 10 touchdowns this year or give back the key, well, there's still time.
"The season's not over yet. I can still get those 10," said Owens as the Bills (3-4) prepare to host Houston (4-3) this weekend. "I've got to hold up my end of the bargain."
It'll take some doing because so far T.O. in Buffalo has amounted to something pretty close to zero. And that's not what anyone expected from the prolific receiver when he generated a major buzz in March by signing a one-year $6.5 million contract with the Bills.
Through seven games, Owens has 18 catches for 242 yards and a touchdown, which marks the worst start to a season since 1996, his rookie year in San Francisco. Worse, Owens had his 185-game reception streak snapped when he failed to make a catch in a 27-7 loss to New Orleans on Sept. 27.
His most productive game with the Bills has been a three-catch, 60-yard outing in a 38-10 loss to Miami. He had previously never gone seven games without a 70-yard performance in a season.
"They're pathetic to be honest," Owens said, referring to his statistics. "Definitely, for myself, it's very, very frustrating. I hear a lot of people saying I've hit the wall, I can't play any more, this and that. I mean, I know I can play.
"I'm frustrated, but I mean, what can I do? I just continue to try to work hard, continue to try to do the best I can."
His best hasn't been enough in an offense that's banged-up, features an offensive line with four of five players who hadn't started a game before this season, and is already on a new coordinator after Turk Schonert was fired in September.
Protection has been an issue. The Bills have given up 21 sacks, which means quarterbacks Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick have had little time to wait for Owens or fellow receiver Lee Evans to get deep.
Owens has only three catches of 20 yards or more, including a 43-yard touchdown. But he's seen many errant throws attempted his way because of quarterbacks under a heavy rush.
Owens, however, has at times appeared uninterested, especially when he was only thrown to 13 times in his first three games. And he has eight drops, though Owens did make a clutch 18-yard catch in traffic to convert a third-and-11 in a 20-9 win at Carolina last weekend.
Fitzpatrick expressed surprise the Bills haven't been able to get Owens more involved.
"Nobody would have guessed he would be where he is now," said Fitzpatrick, preparing to make his second start in place of Edwards, who is recovering from a concussion. "But it is going to be a constant point of emphasis for us to get him the ball."
Coach Dick Jauron said Owens' lack of production is a reflection of the offense's struggles, and not the receiver.
"We've got to do a better job, all of us," Jauron said. "I'm disappointed in our production on the field and our inability to score points. And we're trying to ramp that up, and he'll be a big part of it."
Owens sees injuries and youth as reasons the NFL's 27th-ranked offense is struggling, having failed to generate 300 yards six times already this season. He also said he's not accustomed to an offensive philosophy that forces him to line up in one position before the snap, allowing defenses to account for him.
Owens provided a mixed response when asked if he had any regrets about signing with Buffalo.
He began by saying, "No, not at all. Everything happens for a reason." Owens then added: "There are times. I'm human. And it's frustrating. I never want to go back and rethink things. But that's the nature of it. I have a year here and whatever. I just want to go out and try to play as hard as I can."
Owens remains upbeat. He joked that his objective is to put up better numbers than Cowboys receiver Roy Williams, who's taken over the No. 1 job Owens previously had in Dallas. Williams has 12 catches for 230 yards and a TD, though he's missed one game with a rib injury.
"As long as I'm doing better than him, I'm good," he said, grinning.
Owens was also playful during practice. After making a catch, he ran past a group of reporters on the sideline and exclaimed, "I'm bound to have a breakout game one of these days."
He's got nine games left.