Updated: 3:10 p.m.
CLEVELAND - Maybe it was seeing old teammate Jerry Rice go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Maybe it was meeting with the old press corps that documented his messy divorce from the Cowboys in 2008. Whatever it was, 36-year-old Terrell Owens says he's taking notes from Chad Ochocinco as he heads into the final seasons of his career and he wants to start now.
"I can't keep up with Chad, trust me," Owens said Sunday morning. "This guy needs a leash. This guy is like a 12-, 13-year-old kid. Honestly, it's a joy to be around him. I don't know where he gets the energy. I don't know what he does before he gets up in the morning. All I know is this guy's all over the field every day. It's a joy to see somebody enjoy what he's doing. I think that's what I need to do."
Before Sunday's 8 p.m. Hall of Fame Game up the road in Canton pitting Owens' Bengals vs. his old Cowboys, various players from each team met the media at their respective hotels. Owens was the object of the Dallas media throng's attention but if they were looking for screaming headlines massacring Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, tight end Jason Witten and owner Jerry Jones, it didn't get them.
Owens made it quite clear how he feels. He didn't comment on Romo ("I don't want to go down that road," he said) and he said Jones didn't make the decision to let him go and that if Jones had his way he'd still be there.
"It wasn't because of talent," he said.
But the media basically got the Buffalo Owens on Sunday, the one he says showed "restraint" and "patience" last year for the Bills. And they got an Owens who seemed to want to get back to his roots, recalling when he was a rookie in San Francisco how he would break the post-practice huddle and try to beat linebacker Ken Norton Jr., racing off the field.
"(The Ocho) has put it in perspective for me going into my last years of playing," Owens said. "Just enjoy football. That's what I intend to do … I'm going to enjoy this year as much as I can. That's what being around Chad has really allowed me to do. Standing out there on the sidelines and seeing how charismatic and interactive he is with the fans. For me, it's to enjoy the game. I'm not going to play forever and I know I have a small window to play it."
He's even starting to sound like Chad. On Sunday, Owens challenged a member of the Browns secondary when he was asked about a tweet from Cleveland cornerback Brandon McDonald that dropped the gauntlet in Owens' direction.
"I don't know who that is. Is he related to Ronald McDonald?" Owens asked. "I really don't care. If anybody has something to say, obviously you have to back it up ... we play the Browns. He'll see us. We're on the schedule."
Owens seemed to be reflective all weekend. When the Bengals took the Hall of Fame tour Saturday, he chose not to go past the spiral staircase that goes to the exhibits.
"It's not disrespect to any of the people in the Hall of Fame," Owens said. "That's something special and I'm going to leave that up to the day when I walk away from the game and I can bring my kids and experience it with them."
But his position allowed a glimpse at where he split on the Cowboys. Owens ended up greeting them at the door as they came in on their tour and he got a big welcome from the defense and receivers. But he almost seemed to look past Romo and the conversation with Jones was brief because he didn't have much to say to one of the most garrulous owners in sports.
"I saw those guys," when asked if he saw Jones and, "I saw a number of people." Asked about his relationship with Jones, Owens finally offered, "I think a lot of people know what happened. It was a tough decision for Jerry. I think if Jerry had the ultimate decision, I would be there. By no means do I think I left that team because of talent-wise. Obviously there had to be some other factors there."
CED SAYS: Running back Cedric Benson is looking for a quick start from the offense Sunday.
"I expect everybody to prepare and play like it's a regular-season game," he said in the morning. "And get off to a quick start. Possibly even take it down and score on the first drive. How sweet that would be. It would say a lot about where you are as an offense. Definitely get off to a fast start. Move the chains. Have some positive plays. Three and out is not expected."
Benson's backup, Bernard Scott, is certainly going to play a bunch Sunday night against his favorite team growing up in Vernon, Texas and Benson expects him to play more in his second season. Scott's quickness and elusiveness is the one of the things that continually stands out in Georgetown.
"He's having a wonderful camp," Benson said. "I think a lot of the experience he had last year with a couple of starts is definitely going to propel his career on the right track. I'm excited for him to see him strut his stuff this preseason. I think they're going to find time for him to play. He's got talent, too, and he can provide another aspect to the offense."
Benson made an interesting point about why the Bengals locker room has been able to survive such a collection of personalities that have struggled elsewhere.
"It's a blue-collar town," he said. "The people in the city carry themselves. Everybody is hard working. Nobody carries themselves better than the next person and I think it just kind of (transfers) to the team. I think the team is great for the city. It kind of takes on the same type of attitude.
"There are very few egos in this locker room. There's a lot of camaraderie here. Guys get along very well. I think this is a place where guys feel comfortable in any situation and that's fortunate for every team. Any type of guy can come in here and mesh well."
WHIT CALLED IT: Left tackle Andrew Whitworth isn't surprised about how The Ocho has reacted to the addition of Owens.
"Honestly, it's worked out the way I thought it would," Whitworth said Sunday. "He's working even harder. They kind of feed off each other a little bit. Chad's hungry to prove himself that he can still play the game. You've got two guys where people are saying you're at the end of your careers. They're feeding off each other and, I've seen Chad do extra things I've never seen him do before. I think it's interesting to see those two together. Extra running stuff or saying he wants to work on this after practice. They've always worked hard. There just seems like there's a little extra fire to prove they can play well together."
Whitworth is extremely high on this year's first-rounder, Jermaine Gresham, expected to get loads of snaps Sunday at tight end even though he didn't start practicing until Tuesday. Whitworth says in the next year or two Gresham is going to become a special player because he can be that double threat tight end that is so rare nowadays: "He's a big physical tight end ... he still has the big physicalness in the run game and he's a great athlete," and can make plays downfield.
Whitworth is waiting on right tackle Andre Smith, out Sunday and maybe the next two games as he gets his foot and conditioning right.
"He's looking better and better," Whitworth said. "He's continuing to lose weight. He's continuing to work hard. He seems like he's got some energy to lose weight and get ready to go, so it seems like he cares. But he's got to get on the field and prove it."
If the Bengals can stay healthy at tight end, Whitworth doesn't envision the Bengals using the unbalanced line with an extra tackle as much as last year. But he thinks they'll use it as a wrinkle against teams that have trouble with it. Last year he said it was almost a necessity when they went to a run package after their two top tight ends were lost for the year in the first week or training camp.
"We could do it because our M.O. up front is that we had a lot of guys that understood football a lot and could do a lot of weird things most groups can't," Whitworth said. "A lot of teams try it and end up blocking the wrong people or going the wrong way. I'm sure if it gets into the season where we see a team that doesn't so well against it, we could do it."