There's no question that Eagles wideout Terrell Owens is driven by events in his past. His disdain for Browns quarterback Jeff Garcia, a former teammate in San Francisco, helped get him up for his 109-yard, two-touchdown game in Cleveland on Sunday. And as he prepares for this week's test against Baltimore, he'll be inspired, in part, by his off-season negotiations with that team.
After Owens's initial bid to be declared a free agent was rejected last March, he was traded by the 49ers to the Ravens. However, within two weeks of the deal, with Owens's case before an arbitrator, the trade was nullified after a settlement was reached. The outspoken receiver went to his first choice of teams, Philadelphia, which signed him to a seven-year, $42 million contract. (For their trouble the Ravens got a draft pick from the Eagles, who also sent defensive tackle Brandon Whiting to the 49ers.)
Owens's anger is fixed on Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome. After the trade, Owens says, Newsome asked him to play under his existing contract rather than discuss a new deal the receiver was seeking. ( Owens had two years remaining on his original contract.) "I'm like, This is ridiculous," Owens said recently. "This is not an audition."
On Monday, Newsome acknowledged that he did ask Owens to play under his existing contract. But Newsome added that he then changed his mind and "spent a day negotiating, and we came to no conclusion."
What seems to upset Owens the most was the racially motivated tone he felt Newsome had set in negotiations. Both men are black. "He tried to lure me in when he first talked to me. Like, he was from Alabama, and I'm from Alabama, and we take care of each other. He's a black man, and I'm a black man and, you know, the conversation kind of deteriorated," Owens said.
"If he took it that way, he probably misunderstood it," said Newsome. "It was not meant that way at all. What I was trying to let him understand and know is, we take care of guys [contractually] we need to take care of."
No matter how Newsome intended his remarks to be taken, they are now another log on Owens's fire.