Free-agent Owens still trying to shake troublemaker image

NEW YORK -- Terrell Owens would like to point out that he's never been disciplined by the NFL for off-field conduct, unlike some of the league's "golden boys."

No team has yet to sign him as a free agent, and the polarizing receiver worries they're swayed by the perception he's a troublemaker. A perception he believes he disproved with his agreeable behavior in Buffalo during a disappointing season in 2009.

"There were a number of times where prior I probably would have reacted, said something I wasn't supposed to say," Owens told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "I really had some restraint, very patient."

Did any owners notice?

"It's almost like I didn't play last year," he lamented.

Training camps open for veterans in about two weeks, but Owens sounded as though he may even prefer waiting to sign until after the start of the preseason. The 36-year-old promises he'll make sure to be in excellent shape. And like many players he believes camp is too long, anyway.

"Anything can happen from now to the beginning of the season," he said. "Injuries, anything, to where I may be brought in to help a team win."

As long as he signs early enough "to get some rhythm, some chemistry, learn the offense, and develop that camaraderie with the guys."

Owens is clearly sensitive to the coverage he receives in the media. He disputed talk that he's making exorbitant salary demands.

"They're always focused on what has happened earlier in my career," he complained.

"It's not like I can't play," Owens added. "There is some type of influence that they're making in the minds of teams and owners and GMs."

What happened earlier in his career -- in San Francisco, Philadelphia and Dallas -- was that he too often said what he wasn't supposed to. NFL executives are wary of players who might find trouble off the field as Commissioner Roger Goodell has cracked down on misbehavior.

"If that's the case," Owens said, "then I definitely should be on somebody's team."

Sign T.O., improve your team's image? In an offseason when Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for six games for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy, maybe that doesn't sound so far-fetched.

"Some of the golden boys that they kind of highlight throughout the course of the season, those are the guys that are getting in trouble," Owens said. "Somehow I get lumped into those topics, which blows my mind.

"I've never been in any trouble. I know right from wrong. I try to make the right choices and judgments when I'm out in the public."

What may be scaring off teams more is his production during his one season in Buffalo: 55 catches for 829 yards and five touchdowns. Not helping matters is the uncertainty surrounding the collective bargaining agreement.

"Now they feel like I'm slowing down or I can't play," Owens said. "But those numbers can be deceiving."

He would also like to point out that the Bills' coaching staff upheaval and offensive line injuries weren't exactly conducive to offensive domination.

Owens plans to play two or three more seasons, after which his career aspirations include acting and interior design. He was in New York this week promoting his reality show on VH1, which had its second-season premier Sunday.

In the meantime, Owens wants to play for a team that was on the cusp of making or advancing in the playoffs in 2009. He specifically mentioned Cincinnati, though the Bengals signed Antonio Bryant after meeting with Owens in March, presumably ending their pursuit of other top receivers.

Owens expressed confidence he will be playing somewhere in the NFL when the season begins.

"I feel like I have enough talent to be a starter on any team," he said. "That's what's so frustrating."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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