Owens says Newsome soured him on move to Ravens

Eagle says alleged racial remark major factor in rejecting team

October 28, 2004|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA - Wide receiver Terrell Owens disclosed yesterday for the first time that alleged comments made by Ravens general Ozzie Newsome during negotiations were a major factor in his decision to play for the Philadelphia Eagles instead of Baltimore.

In the past, Owens had pointed to such factors as his preference for Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb over Ravens second-year quarterback Kyle Boller, and the Ravens having the No. 32-ranked passing offense in the league last year.

But during his weekly news conference at the Eagles' training camp, Owens said he was stunned by remarks Newsome supposedly made to Owens' agent last March during two weeks of negotiations.

In his recently released autobiography, Catch This! Going Deep with the NFL's Sharpest Weapon, Owens wrote that Newsome used a racially charged comment in an attempt to lure him to the Ravens.

In the book, Owens says that Newsome reportedly told Owens' agent that "he was a black man from Alabama just like T.O.," and "that sometimes a black man's gotta be slapped."

"Initially, I was kind of stunned by it, and my agent was kind of reluctant to tell me about it at the time," Owens said yesterday. "What a lot of people don't know, and I'll guess I'll let it out now, that was pretty much one of the main reasons why I didn't want to go there after learning that he said that."

The receiver pointed out that Newsome has never denied the statement.

"If you listen at his comments, he didn't deny he said it," Owens said. "He has always said, `No comment,' or he `doesn't want to go into that.' If you're smart, you kind of know if he said it or not."

When asked what he thought Newsome meant by the alleged remark, and if he considered it offensive, Owens said: "You can just read into that. If you're smart enough to read the comment then you know, you said it yourself, that it's offensive. You can ask him what he meant by it. It's not for me to explain. He said it. I didn't say it."

Newsome declined to comment yesterday, but Ravens coach Brian Billick supported his general manager.

"You know T.O. You know Ozzie. I don't think you have to say any more than that," Billick said.

The Ravens' stormy relationship with Owens started after a paperwork error prevented the player from becoming an unrestricted free agent, and his former club, the San Francisco 49ers, sent him to the Ravens for a second-round pick in a move that Owens said violated his trust.

Nearly 14 days later, after much controversy, Owens was sent to the Eagles in a three-team settlement that nullified the Ravens' trade.

But the controversy still surrounds the Ravens and Eagles.

"Obviously, this is the media's way of trying to stir something up this week," Owens said. "I'm not going to let it distract me. I'm still going to go out there and have fun and try to win the ballgame.

"Why didn't they [media] bring it up last week or the week before?" Owens said. "The book has been out. The book is going to sell itself. If I was trying to use that quote to sell the book, I would have started the first chapter out with it. I knew they [media] were going to dig up something to try to stir it up this week."

Owens has 34 receptions for 596 yards in six games and is tied for the league lead with eight touchdown receptions. He has posted four consecutive 100-yard games.

The Ravens have the league's 31st-ranked offense and are ranked last in passing. McNabb is having an MVP-type season, while Boller is struggling.

"It was a situation where I knew I had to find me somewhere to play because, like everybody knows, I'm toward the end of my career. I tried to be somewhere where I could be productive," Owens said.

"I don't even think about it," he said of playing for the Ravens. "I'm just thankful I'm here. That's what I fought for and that's why I'm here. That situation [the Ravens' passing game], well, I kind of factored all that in."

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