A True Buffalo Soldier

By Jay Skurski
Updated: October 24, 2009

Terrell Owens (81), shown running past Lito Sheppard of the Jets, has been a good teammate during his time in Buffalo

Terrell Owens (81), shown running past Lito Sheppard of the Jets, has been a good teammate during his time in Buffalo

BUFFALO — He’s not pulling Sharpies from his socks. He’s not doing sit-ups in his driveway. He’s not saying the Bills would be better off with Brett Favre.

What Terrell Owens is doing, believe it or not, is being a model citizen. Despite getting off to the worst statistical start of his career (15 catches, 215 yards, one touchdown) and playing on an offense that looks stuck in neutral, Owens hasn’t lost his cool.

“I just have to go with the opportunities that are given to me,” he said. “I can’t really force the issue.”

Huh? T.O., not forcing the issue?

Strange as it may seem, that’s the truth, Bills players say.

“The guy’s been a great teammate,” center Geoff Hangartner said. “He comes in and works his butt off. I’ve had nothing but great experiences with him. We’ve all heard about his reputation in the past, but I haven’t seen any of that at all. I think he’s been nothing but a great teammate.”

Aside from a small dust-up with the media after losing to New Orleans — Owens thought the line of questioning he faced was an attempt to bait him into saying something negative — his stay in Buffalo has been remarkably nondescript.

That’s also true of his performance, although it’s difficult to determine whether that’s because the 35-year-old has lost a step or because he’s in such an ineffective, low-functioning offense.

The fact the Bills are starting the youngest offensive line in the NFL this decade (and maybe longer) obviously isn’t helping their attempts to hold the ball long enough to throw deep.

The Bills do not use motion in their offense, as dictated by coach Dick Jauron. So Owens does not move pre-snap. He normally lines up as the flanker opposite Lee Evans.

However, the Bills have lined Owens up as the slot receiver on occasion. That’s the only moving around he does. Evans never moves from his “X” receiver spot.

“I’ve faced a number of coverages throughout my career,” Owens said. “Obviously, with those coverages, the coordinators have been able to move me around in the offense, create plays and do things with formations and shifts and things of that nature.”

“And with this offense, it’s not like that. So I understand that and you just have to go with the plays that are called. Again, I put the amount of plays that have come my way and I’m not making, I have to put that on my shoulders because I have to make those plays.”

Owens is also filling another role this season for the Bills, that of role model. After practice Thursday, he remained on the practice field with second-year pro James Hardy, offering tips on route running.

“Since we’re taller guys and we have such longer strides, we sort of run our routes a little differently than a smaller receiver. So I was just asking him just to give me little tips and stuff on what he does on a particular route, on how he comes out and what he’s looking at on the defender,” Hardy said.

“He’s a great, great teammate. He’s been a good role model for me. I don’t know if he’s ever had a younger guy come and ask him the type of things that I’ve asked him before, but when he came here, I told him my goal and he’s just been helping me along the way.”

That’s a side of T.O. fans don’t get to see every week. Owens, it seems obvious, is determined to defy his reputation as a divisive force.

He also still seems to be enjoying himself. The players had off Monday and Tuesday following the win over the Jets, and Owens stayed in New York to appear on the nationally syndicated Wendy Williams show.

He also did a photo shoot and interview with Green Magazine, a golf publication. So will Owens take to the links when his playing days are over?

“Golf is definitely not my game,” he said. “I have played in a lot of charity games, stemming back all the way to San Francisco where I played scramble.”

“I’m definitely not a golfer by any means, but I’ve hit a couple of good drives and sliced the ball a lot, lost some, and all of that good stuff. I’ve never claimed to be a golfer by any means.”

NOTE: News Sports Reporter Mark Gaughan contributed to this report.