T.O., Bills open camp at Fisher
It didn't take long for the 2009 Buffalo Bills’ season to become a little more special than usual.
As Terrell Owens’ toes touched the ground as he walked onto the field at St. John Fisher on Saturday, the star wide receiver drew the loudest cheers — by far — and it continued each time he touched the ball and as he signed dozens of autographs after the team’s first practice of training camp.
As the Buffalo Bills celebrate their 50th season in the league and 10th training at St. John Fisher, there was no doubt why the legions of fans came extra early to see and stayed long after to see again ... and again.
“That’s what you expect from the fans,”?Owens said. “I’m used to it.”
The fact that Owens, in his 14th NFL season, could form a deadly wide receiver combination with Lee Evans actually became an afterthought Saturday. His mere presence brought enough excitement on Day 1.
“Everywhere I’ve been there’s been that type of reception,”?Owens said. “I can remember vividly when I was there in Philly we had a big crowd every day for practice. It was a little bit bigger than this, but every time I touched or dropped the ball there was a big reaction, one way or the other.”
Owens, who also has spent time with the San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles and, most recently, the Dallas Cowboys, enters this season with 951 career receptions.
Buffalo head coach Dick Jauron has not paid much attention to Owens’ off-the-field work, namely his new reality television show, “The T.O. Show,” or his musings on Twitter, but he likes the buzz surrounding his team’s biggest offseason acquisition.
“We all know about him as a player, it adds a lot of excitement,”?Jauron said. “Wherever I was, and I wasn’t that many places during this little break we had, there were a lot of questions, and all of them, almost all of them, were about him.”
One particular fan drew the attention of Owens a couple of times as he serenaded the wideout on the many nifty catches he made during practice, his “T.O’s” cereal, and his television show.
Decked out in one of many No. 81 jerseys seen at St. John Fisher, the fan also showed off his newly purchased season tickets and had a box of the receiver’s cereal in hand.
“He’s part of my P.R. team,” joked Owens. “It’s just a T.O. following, I guess.”
Owens also said he enjoyed a bowl of his new cereal prior to practice.
Of course, there were other issues to take care of on the first day of camp, including putting linebacker John DiGiorgio on waivers after failing his physical following season-ending knee surgery. DiGiorgio appeared in only six games last season before tearing a ligament in his knee during a win over San Diego in Week 7.
Also on the injury front, wide receivers James Hardy, who was lost for the season after tearing a knee ligament in a December loss to the New York Jets, and C.J. Hawthorne were both placed on the active/physically-unable-to-perform list. Hawthorne had surgery on his left foot in June and Jauron said both he and Hardy should be practicing soon.
Other players not at Saturday’s first day of camp were four of the team’s 2009 draft picks. First-round choices defensive end Aaron Maybin and guard Eric Wood, along with a pair of second-round picks, defensive back Jairus Byrd and guard Andy Levitre.
The Bills did start camp earlier than any other team, partly because their first pre-season game will be the Hall of Fame game on Aug. 9 against Tennessee, which is one reason why so few of the team’s draft picks have yet to sign, according to chief operating office/general manager Russ Brandon. Another reason is very few first- and second-round picks have yet to sign across the league and that often dictates the type of money other picks receive.
“We’re focused on the guys that are here,”?Brandon said Friday as the team reported to St. John Fisher. “We’re hopeful that everyone gets here on time, but we’ll have to wait and see.
“There will be continual dialogue,”?added Brandon. “As we all know, it takes two to get deals done and we’ll keep working on it.”
The Bills’ 2008 first-round draft pick, cornerback Leodis McKelvin, missed only two days of camp before signing a five-year $19.4 million deal.