IRVING (AP) — Terrell Owens once again caught some of his Dallas Cowboys teammates and coaches off guard.
But instead of stirring controversy off the field, Owens surprised them by participating in the team’s first minicamp.
The wide receiver has been recovering from two offseason surgeries on his right ring finger. New Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips said earlier in the week that Owens would not practice in the team’s first gathering since he replaced Bill Parcells in February.
“I’m surprised but I can understand why he wanted to come out here,” Dallas owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “He got caught up in the enthusiasm of being with the team, the excitement we’ve got about our team. I’m sure he just wanted to go ahead and catch some passes.”
In drills against Dallas’ first-team defense, Owens beat cornerback Terence Newman and hauled in a nicely thrown deep ball from Tony Romo.
Owens was laughing as he ran through the end zone after the play.
But he wasn’t in the mood Saturday to talk with reporters. During the team’s media availability with players, Owens walked out of the locker room, saying only, “I have nothing to talk about.”
This was a far cry from last season, when he talked about everything from not knowing the play book to his role in the offense.
Owens’ tumultuous first season with the Cowboys also included an accidental drug overdose and more than a dozen dropped passes as he battled the finger injury.
“I don’t know that he’s any more or less motivated,” Romo said. “Anytime you feel like you’re going to be a big part of the offense it’s going to motivate anybody.”
Owens is due a $3 million roster bonus on June 1, and Jones has repeatedly said that Owens will be back in a Cowboys uniform this coming season after catching 85 passes for 1,180 yards in 2006.
Saturday’s practice was further indication that Owens will be on the roster when the season kicks off.
“We weren’t sure how far along he was going to be,” Phillips said. “We were hoping at one time that he might be ready this camp. We thought it might have been the next camp or even training camp. But he is almost ready as far as catching the football.”
Phillips said that Owens had been working out and catching footballs at home in Miami.
Romo added he wasn’t astonished that Owens was back on the practice field so soon.
“He never surprises me,” Romo said. “He’s a hard worker and he's been doing the things to get himself ready to go this year. I’m pretty excited about it. He looked pretty good.”