Terrell Owens is in his second season playing for the Dallas Cowboys, a team that sports a 12-1 record, has clinched the NFC East title and is the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
He is two years removed from playing for the Eagles, a team that lies far below the Cowboys in the division, saddled with a 5-8 record and not likely to get a whiff of the playoffs.
But reporters who crowded around a speaker phone yesterday at the Eagles' NovaCare Complex expecting the loquacious wide receiver to boast or gloat about his own good fortune and the problems of the team that dumped him had to be a little disappointed.
He came close a couple of times. In one thought, he said, "In my heart, I'm getting the last laugh." Another time, he told the assembled media to assess the difference between his time with the Eagles and the team now "as far as what's going on, without me even saying it."
That was about it, though.
"It doesn't matter," Owens said. "It's not a matter of me walking around every day and saying, 'Oh, look at what they're doing and look at what I'm doing.' I'm just going out and being focused on trying to be the best player that I can be.
"I'm the same player that they wanted and they got coming to Philly, and I'm the same person now on the other side of the rivalry. So other than that, I don't really concentrate on what they're doing or what they're not doing."
Owens, who turned 34 on Friday, leads the NFL in receiving yards with 1,270 on 74 catches, 14 of them for touchdowns. The numbers are similar to those Owens posted in 2004, his first season with the Eagles, when he caught 77 passes for 1,200 yards and 14 TDs, helping the team reach the Super Bowl.
Owens' Eagles career went from tumultuous to nonexistent in 2005 when he was suspended at midseason for four games after being critical of the team and quarterback Donovan McNabb. He was told not to return after the suspension ended. The Cowboys signed Owens as a free agent on March 18, 2006.
"It wasn't a good situation, but other than that, I enjoyed my time there," Owens said of his seasons with the Eagles. "I enjoyed the success that we had. Obviously, the last thing I remember is just being suspended. I knew a lot of the guys on that team had my back and wanted me back, and some people had a say-so in not having me back.
"I'm still the same person regardless of what management, or whoever, may think about me. I've moved on and I'm still being successful."
Owens stays in touch with some members of the Eagles. He said he spoke with cornerback Lito Sheppard the other day and also has talked with return man Reno Mahe and wide receiver Greg Lewis.
As for McNabb, Owens said nothing is new.
"We've had discussions and we've basically left it at that," he said. "At this point, I wish him well and I'm doing my thing. Other than that, I can't really focus on how he may feel about me at this point."
Owens arrived in Dallas with a reputation for being outspoken, controversial and polarizing. But first-year coach Wade Phillips, who succeeded Bill Parcells after last season, said he wasn't going to judge Owens until he had a chance to work with him.
Phillips has had that chance and likes what he has seen.
"He's been a great teammate," Phillips said. "He's worked hard. That's what I've always said about him since I've been here. And he's shown leadership. He says the right things, does the right things. He's been a pleasure to be around."
Since Owens and quarterback Tony Romo started playing together, they have connected for 24 touchdowns, more than any other combination in the NFL over the last two seasons. Owens said Romo has improved with experience and has developed a fine chemistry with him.
As for comparing Romo to McNabb, Owens demurred.
"I wouldn't compare them at this point in time," he said. "I think the stats kind of speak for themselves. If you want to make comparisons, I guess, you have to compare the number of games played with Donovan and the number of games played with Romo."
A victory Sunday over the Eagles will give the Cowboys a first-round bye as they aim to capture home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Owens wants another shot at the championship after falling short with the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX.
"Everything happens for a reason," he said. "I feel like I got the better end of the deal. So nothing has changed as far as me and my play since I left. . . . Just because I'm not in an Eagles uniform, I'm sure a lot of people expected me to fail, but that's not my nature. I feel like I'm a blessed individual. No matter what the circumstances or obstacles, I'm going to overcome them."