T.O. indoors and out to prove he still can play

ALLEN, Texas – Terrell Owens said joining an arena football team isn’t an attempt to get back into the NFL but made it clear he’s ready to return if someone calls. Owens, 38, was introduced to his new team, the Allen Wranglers of the Indoor Football League, at a news conference Wednesday in front of hundreds of cheering fans at the Allen Event Center.

One of the first things he told them was that he hasn’t sent in the paperwork to officially retire from the NFL.

“I’m not using this as a route to get back into the NFL,” Owens said. “I know I can play, that’s not even a question that I can play.”

Owens did not play last season after suffering a knee injury prior to the season. After the knee healed he staged a public workout to show his readiness, but the phone didn’t ring.

“You look at the NFC Championship, they’re [the 49ers] starting receiver corps, one catch for 3 yards,” Owens said. “You look at the AFC Championship, the Baltimore Ravens, the past two years they’ve brought in two guys they thought could get the job done, and it comes down to crucial catches and they didn’t make those catches.”

Owens also denied that joining an IFL team, where players make $225 a game, is a humbling experience for a player who spent 15 seasons in the NFL.

“I don’t see this as anything beneath me,” Owens said. “I come from humble beginnings. I know what it takes. I’ve worked my butt off to get where I am. I don’t worry about the critics or anybody else thinking about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. This is for myself, it’s for my family, and that’s all I’m really concerned about.

“I’m not really worried about what anybody thinks or what they say about me from here going forward.”

On the other hand, Owens admitted to the crowd he didn’t know where Allen was when he was playing with the Cowboys from 2006 to 2008.

Owens said he was given a 50 percent ownership stake in the franchise, so he has a good reason to stick around. However, co-owner Jon Frankel said it’s understood that Owens will leave the Wranglers if he an NFL team offers him a contract.

“We want every player to go to the next level, whether that’s the CFL or the NFL,” Frankel said. “That’s a goal of this league and Terrell falls into that. If he gets an opportunity for that, we all want nothing but the best for him.”

In the meantime, Frankel hopes Owens sells a lot of tickets to Wranglers games. For now, Frankel said Owens is only committed to playing home games, but he is getting calls from fellow IFL teams urging him to play when the Wranglers visit. The Wranglers first home game is Feb. 25.

Owens was jokingly asked if he would be as involved as an owner as the Cowboys’ Jerry Jones.

“I’m a player first, and then obviously I’ll put on that hat when needed,” Owens said. “Right now I’m looking forward to working with the guys, getting back on the football field, running around and getting hit a little bit.”

Owens told the crowd he had hoped to retire in Dallas. He hasn’t had much contact with Jones since the Cowboys released him.

“I’ve seen him maybe a handful of times since that,” Owens said. “It is what it is. I’m not bitter about it. At that time it was disappointing, considering the stadium was about to be open and he had told me I was going to be a big part of that process. And then it’s like having the wind knocked out of you. Life goes on.”

Owens said he has been working out and that he is probably faster now that he was before the knee injury.

“For whatever reason, I didn’t play this year, but that doesn’t mean I can’t play the game,” Owens said. “I think everybody knows I’m in great shape. It’s just a matter of getting the opportunity.”

Owens acknowledged that one of the reasons he didn’t catch on with a team last season is his reputation for creating controversy. His last two seasons in the NFL, one year each with the Bills and Bengals, were uneventful compared to his exits from the 49ers, Eagles and Cowboys.

“I tried to dispel any of those things by going out and doing what I was supposed to do on the football field, leaving all the distractions where they were,” Owens said.

“The media wouldn’t allow me to turn over a new leaf. I’ve done things to try to better myself and show people that I have changed. But nobody can forget things that happened five, seven years ago. Why don’t I get that pass? Why don’t I ever get that same fair treatment that everybody else has gotten?”

Owens also has a reputation for playing to the crowd. That’s one thing he hasn’t changed, as evidenced when a fan asked him what he planned to do after scoring his first touchdown for the Wranglers.

“Right now I don’t have anything planned,” said Owens, who then lowered his voice. “But get your popcorn ready.”

Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire