|T.O. sees lack of proven WRs as chance to shine|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 04 September 2008 13:59|
``I did a lot of shoulder presses this summer,'' Owens said, smiling. ``I think I will be ready to shoulder the load.''
T.O. is always eager to be option Nos. 1, 2 and 3, and he might have to be at times during the opener Sunday in Cleveland. Because after Owens and fellow starter Patrick Crayton, Dallas has ... not much.
Backups Miles Austin and Sam Hurd are out with ankle injuries, leaving only Isaiah Stanback, a college quarterback who didn't play last season while learning his new position. He also was slowed by injuries, and is now battling a shoulder problem that will force him to wear a harness.
Of course, the Cowboys also have Jason Witten, whose 96 receptions last season are among the most by a tight end. But even his backups are iffy - rookie Martellus Bennett and Tony Curtis (three catches in two seasons, although all for touchdowns).
Then there are the running backs. Marion Barber caught 44 passes last season, but his two backups are rookies and the fullback, Deon Anderson, has only six catches.
So, to review, that makes nine skill-position guys likely to be active - four quality starters and five other guys who've caught a total of nine passes.
Owens alone might have that many Sunday.
``It's just more opportunities,'' he said, seriously this time.
But what if the Browns decide to load up on him and Witten, daring the five other guys to beat them. Then what?
``Just because we have somebody out doesn't mean there will be more added pressure on this team or the offense,'' Owens said. ``Other guys just have to step up. Maybe the game plan changes a little bit. Maybe the personnel changes a little bit. Overall, we will be ready. ... We have more than enough to get the job done.''
Owens is certainly ready.
Heading into his 13th season, and third in Dallas, he remains among the league's top receivers and keeps inching higher among the all-time greats.
If Owens comes close to his usual numbers - 80-plus catches, about 1,200 yards - he'll finish this season in the top five on both career lists. He's already No. 3 on the touchdown receptions list, one shy of tying Cris Carter for No. 2.
He'll be 35 in December, but certainly doesn't look it. Always a careful eater and workout fiend, he talked this week about avoiding alcohol during the season and daring teammates to do the same. He'll also soon be releasing his own fitness book.
``Sometimes, it's not all about working harder, it's working smarter,'' Owens said. ``With the way I keep myself in shape, it kind of speaks for itself.''
His sustained success and ongoing desire to be among the best were all reasons team owner Jerry Jones added three years to his contract earlier this summer. Now, Owens is ready to show it was a good investment.
``I feel good,'' Owens said, ``and I look good.''
His teammates agree. On Thursday, he was selected a team captain, one of four on offense, along with Barber and incumbents Romo and Witten.
Despite the large number of honorees, it shows that Owens has the respect of his teammates, which hasn't always been the case - or, at least, it hasn't seemed like it.
``I am no different as a person and as a teammate than I was in San Francisco and Philly,'' Owens said. ``Some guys even told me, 'Bro, you are a cool person. You are not anything like we heard or what we expected.' So, other than that, I have pretty much been myself.''
His first year in Dallas, coach Bill Parcells referred to Owens as ``the player,'' and there was plenty of off-field drama. But he produced on the field, and put up even bigger numbers last season.
Now coach Wade Phillips, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and quarterback Tony Romo are reaping the rewards of a happy, healthy Owens.
``I feel more comfortable with the role that I am playing on this team,'' T.O. said. ``I am excited about the opportunities with this offense. And the things I can do in it. ... Everywhere that I've been and I've been successful, I've been that No. 1 option, been that feature guy, that go-to guy in the offense.''
Maybe that's why so many prognosticators are picking the Cowboys as NFC favorites.
``If we do what we are capable of doing offensively, than everything will take care of itself,'' Owens said. ``I think everyone knows across the nation that we have the talent, we just have to go out there and do what we do best.''
Notes: The defensive captains are linebackers Bradie James and Greg Ellis, and safety Ken Hamlin. Keith Davis was voted special teams captain for a second straight year - even though he signed with Miami earlier this year, only to be cut and re-signed by Dallas on Wednesday. ... Davis is so beloved by teammates that Phillips said he was an overwhelming choice. ``I think it's credibility,'' Phillips said. ... Dallas has no plans to send eight captains out for the coin toss. Phillips will rotate them.