ON A CONFERENCE call yesterday with Philadelphia-area reporters, Terrell Owens said, "In my heart, I'm getting the last laugh."
And that, "Everything happens for a reason and I feel like I got the better end of the deal."
The counter-argument is hard to formulate, if not impossible. I mean, who even has the heart anymore?
T.O. is getting the last laugh. That was not true last year - you know, what with the drug overdose and all. It might not be true in a month, either, given his historic instability.
But today, right now, as the Eagles and Cowboys prepare to meet again under widely divergent circumstances, there would seem to be little to dispute. T.O. is reaching for the Super Bowl. The Eagles are reaching for their throats. It is all pretty plain.
"I think everybody can assess what has gone on since I've left," Owens said. "I've said all the time, 'The proof is in the pudding.' ''
He gets no points for originality there, but T.O. is having an excellent season for the 12-1 Cowboys. He leads the NFC with 1,270 yards and 14 touchdowns. He has the most catches of more than 20 yards (22) and the most catches for first downs (62). He is almost certainly going to the Pro Bowl.
Meanwhile, the Eagles are almost certainly going nowhere. They are 5-8 and Donovan McNabb's future with the team is an open topic of conversation and speculation. The juxtaposition between then and now, between the fortunes of the Cowboys and the Eagles, and between the situations of Owens and McNabb, is pretty much complete.
"My play speaks for itself," T.O. said. "They knew why they brought me to Philly, and I think they can kind of assess my first year there and the six or seven games that I played my second year, and you can make your opinions based off that. But other than that, I'm not really concerned about what I did or what I'm not doing or what they're doing at this point in time.
"I'm with the Cowboys, we're 12-1 and we're trying to get to the Super Bowl. Any concerns about their offense or anything of that nature, that's not even on my radar."
"You guys are smart," he said to reporters. "You guys have kind of observed the team since I left, and you see where they are and you see where I am."
Then, even later:
"I don't know," he said, when asked if McNabb missed him on the field. "You tell me."
In 2004, McNabb threw 14 touchdown passes to Owens alone in the Eagles' first 12 games. This season, in 11 games, McNabb has thrown only 14 touchdown passes total. There has been a complete stylistic change in the way he plays. After five games last season, something happened with McNabb - and, as you look back on it, the percentage of touchdown passes to the wideouts has dropped for him but remained much higher for backup quarterbacks Jeff Garcia and A.J. Feeley during their appearances.
McNabb just won't throw the ball into tight spots downfield anymore. He said yesterday, "In this situation, yes, we're 5-8, but this isn't the time to just start throwing the ball up and seeing who is able to make plays."
Which begs the question: Why not? That is the issue, right there. But this argument has become exhausting in recent weeks. The Eagles seem destined to limp along here to the end, as the Cowboys' stride lengthens.
"It's not a matter of me walking around every day saying, 'Look at what they're doing, look at what I'm doing,' '' Owens said. "I'm just going out and being focused and trying to be the best player that I can be. I'm the same player that they wanted and they got with me coming to Philly and I'm the same person now on the other side of this rivalry. Other than that, I don't really try to concentrate on what they're doing and what they're not doing."
To replay the dispute that saw Owens exiled in 2005 is not the point here; again, who has the energy? That T.O.'s memory is a little bit selective on the whole matter is not surprising. He says he might have done a few things differently, but only a few. That the Eagles might have done a few things differently, too, goes without saying. But, no, no, no - not going there.
This is simply a between-the-eyes reminder of what was, and what is, and what might have been. And if it is all a waste of breath, well, fine. When Brian Dawkins says, "We have moved on," you can respect it. But T.O. is still there, still wearing a No. 81 jersey, still in your face.
"I'm fine," Owens said. "Everything happens for a reason. It is what it is. I'm happy where I am. Just because I'm not in an Eagle uniform, I'm sure a lot of people expected me to fail. But that's not the nature of me. I feel like I'm a blessed individual. No matter what the circumstances or obstacles, I'm going to try to overcome them. Other than that, I'm just going out and playing like I know how."
He says he still talks to a few Eagles teammates, including Lito Sheppard, Reno Mahe and Greg Lewis. He says he wishes McNabb well. He says, "I knew a lot of guys on that team had my back and wanted me back. For whatever reason, certain people had some say-so in not having me brought back.
"Other than that, I'm still the same person. I don't care what management or whomever may think about me. I'm still the same person. I've moved on and I'm still being successful.
"In my heart, I'm getting the last laugh and I'm just trying to go out and be successful with the team that I'm on now," Owens said. *
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