Five days shy of his 37th birthday and 86 yards from his 10th 1,000-yard season, Bengals wide receiver Terrell Owens said Thursday he'd like to return to Cincinnati next season for another run with quarterback Michael Johnson.
After missing Wednesday's practice with an illness, Owens was back and saying he thinks he's had a good season considering he didn't start working with the club and Palmer until the first day of training camp.
"If you factor in what I've done this year, and obviously with more time and us getting to know each other," Owens said, "you can only imagine what would happen with this year under our belt."
Owens is on pace for 1,330 yards, his most since 1,355 with Dallas in 2007 and the fifth-most in club history.
But, like everyone else in Bengaldom, Owens is unsure of what's next. The coaching situation is, at best, unsettled, he's on a one-year deal, there's a $6 million option hanging on the other receiver, and there's no CBA. And he probably wants more than the close to $4 million he's scheduled to make with the numbers he's hit.
But he'd like to come back.
"Of course. Like I said, when the opportunity presents itself and everything works out," Owens said. "I don't know what's going to happen after this year. I think a lot of rumors are swirling out there about everything, coaching staff and, I don't know. I let all that stuff kind of play itself out. My agent and I will get together after the season and see how it goes."
With 14.1 yards per catch and on pace to catch 95 balls, Owens is tied for fourth in the NFL in catches and third in yards. It looks like he's having the last word with the people that said he was done after 2009 in Buffalo and after an offseason he didn't have a job until the Bengals signed him on the eve of training camp.
He would become just the second Bengal next to Chad Ochocinco to have a 1,300-yard season and the fourth to catch at least 95 passes. It would also be his second best, next to the career-high 100 he caught in San Francisco in 2002.
"If there is anything that I can be thankful for this Thanksgiving, it was just an opportunity to be able to showcase what I can do," Owens said. "To be given the job. It is what is, I still feel like I can play this game two or three more years considering what I've done this year.
"I am very blessed I think genetically, I think spiritually in the things I am able to accomplish at the age of what everybody would consider old in this league and that's 36. Everybody said I have lost a step, but I am still getting behind defensive backs and some of the best corners in the league. So now what do they say? It's going to be an interesting situation probably for myself again going into the offseason. Obviously, I've shown that I can play. There's probably going to be some contract situations depending on a lockout or what have you in the offseason."
Owens acknowledged it hasn't been smooth sailing with Palmer. Eight of Palmer's 15 interceptions have been in passes to Owens, but so have eight of his 19 touchdown passes. And Owens seems to like the confidence Palmer continues to display in him. Palmer has thrown 432 passes this year and according to the game summaries, Owens has been targeted 124 times.
"I think the thing is just me going out there and when I am out there no matter who the quarterback is, I just try to take advantage of the opportunities I'm given," Owens said. "That's about all I can do. I can't really control anything else. From a fan perspective or any outsiders that may watch the game or what have you, of course, I can make an impact in any given game I play in. I am only as good as my opportunities.
"Carson and I, we hooked up throughout the course of the year. There are some times that we haven't. It's been a work in progress in a short amount of time. Again, I think I've done particularly well considering I had no minicamps, no OTAs, and really just jumping into training camp literally from the plane and hitting the practice field."
Of course, no media session with Owens on Thursday could go by without him being asked about Cards quarterback Derek Anderson's unfortunate smile at the end of Monday's night's blowout captured on camera that sparked a media meltdown for which he has since apologized.
"I've been the victim of that and it started back in San Francisco. I've definitely had to watch my demeanor on the sidelines because the camera is always on me," Owens said. "Sort of like a star cam or what have you. I saw the game. I saw what was happening. Again, Derek addressed it initially and then the reporter kept hounding him about it and really trying to push the envelope with the question and I felt it was inappropriate. No one ever knows what's going on. They were down 18 but it doesn't mean you're supposed to sit on the sideline with a frown on your face."
As part of "81 Cares," Owens is making a foray into the community Monday at 7 p.m. at Star Lanes on the Levee in Newport, Ky., with GQ Magazine and his celebrity friends and teammates "for a night of bowling and entertainment." Owens says the idea is to raise money to help 81 needy families in the community and help them get through Christmas. Sponsors are Corona, Title Water and Sweet Breath.
Tickets are $75, but they are $40 with the code "81CARES" at a link that is a media player that can be posted on Facebook and e-mails: http://social.trueanthem.com/terrellowens/
BEST BENGALS RECEIVING SEASONS
CATCHES: T.J. Houshmandzadeh 112 (2007); Carl Pickens 100 (1996); Carl Pickens 99 (1995); Chad Ochocinco 97 (2005); Chad Ochocinco 95 (2004); Terrell Owens 95 (on pace in 2010)
YARDS: Ochocinco 1,440 (2007); 1,432 (2005); 1,369 (2006), 1,355 2003); Owens 1,330 (on pace in 2010)