IRVING, Texas (AP) -When Tony Romo sent a stream of water splashing into a distracted Terrell Owens last Sunday, Fox television cameras were all over it. They also caught T.O.'s return spritz, a squirt into Romo's back as he walked away.
Sports Illustrated captured it, too, using the picture near the front of the latest issue.
Owens going after his quarterback tends to make big news. This? Well, the news is that it isn't news.
It was simply a case of 'Boys being boys. Just Owens being buddy-buddy with his quarterback, like Michael Irvin and Troy Aikman used to be, and even like T.O. and Donovan McNabb were once upon a time.
a quarterback.
``Tony gets me,'' Owens said this week. ``He stood and sat on the sidelines and watched me from afar. He watched how I worked when Drew (Bledsoe) was the quarterback. I think that only helped him and helped our relationship grow.''
When Owens, Romo and the Dallas Cowboys play McNabb and the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night, it will be the fifth time T.O. has faced his former friend and former team. The Owens-McNabb storyline remains vibrant, mainly because the Romo-Owens vibe keeps growing stronger.
``He bought me dinner a couple of times and so we just went from there. Now we're dating,'' Romo said, laughing off the topic.
Actually, Romo figured out from the start that keeping Owens happy would keep him productive, and if Owens is productive, then the Cowboys are scoring a lot of points and, most likely, winning. And if the Cowboys are winning, the quarterback can ... oh, maybe go from third-stringer to Pro Bowl and date gorgeous celebrities.
Just check the evidence.
Guess who caught Romo's first-ever touchdown pass. And his first one this season.
OK, now guess which quarterback-receiver tandem have hooked up for the most touchdowns since 2006.
Yeah, Romo ``gets'' him all right.
ls the tight ends or his coaches that he wants the ball, that he needs to get involved early? I mean, it's part of the game. If I start having to worry about what people think or say, then I'm not doing my job. My job is to just throw it to the guy who is open.''
Of all the big numbers Romo and Owens have piled up together, the biggest is $101.5 million. That's the total value of the contacts signed by both players over the last year.
So maybe Owens has learned the benefit of getting along well with others.
``I think I've always kind of been underpaid - up until now,'' Owens said.
Owens has been loyal to Romo, too, especially after their two playoff losses.
Romo flubbed away the first on the hold of a field goal and wound up in tears. Owens was the one shedding tears the second time, trying to deflect the blame being cast upon Romo for going to Mexico with his girlfriend the week before the game.
Owens acknowledges that his attitude toward quarterbacks has changed. Early in his career, ``the only relationship I wanted was with the ball coming to me.'' Now he realizes that it's a two-way street.
``My success relies on what the quarterback does with the ball and his success relies on what I do once I get the ball,'' he said. ``We complement each other in a lot of ways.''
Looking at what's right about the Owens-Romo relationship helps frame what went wrong with Owens-McNabb.
The Cowboys were plodding along a half-season into Owens' arrival when the spark from Romo's ascension turned them into a playoff team. Everything that's gone right on their watch has been fully credited to both of them.
The Eagles, however, were an elite team before Owens arrived, McNabb having led them to three straight NFC championship games. They brought in Owens to get them over the hump and, through 14 games, he made Philadelphia the team to beat.
The only thing better than their 13-1 record was how close the two stars were becoming off the field.
``We had Monday nights at my house and he was the bartender or I was the bartender,'' Owens said. ``We gave ourselves some alias names and we had a lot of fun. We had a lot of teammates come over and enjoy that.''
Then Owens got hurt. McNabb rallied the club by essentially telling them they were good before T.O. and could be good again without him. And they were, as Philadelphia won two playoff games to get to the Super Bowl.
Owens made a dramatic recovery to play in the big game. He played great, but it wasn't enough for the Eagles to beat the New England Patriots.
Things were never the same between Owens and McNabb. Maybe the problem was McNabb's lack of mourning after Owens' injury. Or, as Owens suggested this week, the root cause might've been T.O. becoming more popular in Philadelphia than McNabb.
g bar together on Monday nights any more.
``We obviously could have done some great things together,'' Owens said. ``But it wasn't me letting my pride get in the way. ... I honestly can say that Donovan made me a better receiver in Philly, but I think it would be hard for him to admit that I made him a better quarterback.''
Since Owens left midway through the 2005 season, McNabb's numbers are down, although injuries are largely to blame.
Sure, he'd love to have another reliable target like No. 81. And, of course, he can't help but see what the guy has done, especially with both in the same division.
So, does McNabb think T.O. is a changed man?
``I don't know,'' McNabb said. ``I'm just a guy on the outside looking in. ... He and Tony are great friends, I guess.''
Pushed more, McNabb continued: ``I mean, we had great times here and to say they have good times together over there, but it's not different than what he was doing here.''
``It's unfortunate the way things ended up, but he's happy where he's at and I'm happy where I'm at,'' McNabb said. ``He's not just an ordinary receiver, he's one of the best receivers. ... He and Romo built a nice relationship, I guess. They've had some success. He's a great player. What else can you say about him?''
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