[size=18px]Owens, Lewis trade verbal barbs prior to showdown[/size]
[size=9px]Terrell Owens said Monday that he expects the Ravens to take shots at him in Friday night's exhibition game.
Tuesday, August 17, 2004
By DON BENEVENTO
Long before the teams were to meet in a preseason football game at Lincoln Financial Field on Friday night, the Eagles and the Baltimore Ravens were adversaries in a contentious struggle - for the rights to obtain Pro Bowl receiver Terrell Owens.
It's was quite a battle, and it's still going strong - at least based on the war of words that emerged Monday from both teams' headquarters.
"Tell T.O. to keep my name out of his mouth," Baltimore Pro Bowl linebacker Ray Lewis told reporters in the Ravens' locker room. "I don't care nothing about this guy."
Back in Philadelphia, Owens was acknowledging that the Ravens might be inclined to take some shots at him Friday night. But he also said he would have the chance to take a few shots of his own.
"In the running game, I might be able to return the favor," Owens said.
It's quite a build-up to a preseason game.
The first battle between the teams was for the rights to Owens. The Eagles eventually won, sending defensive end Brandon Whiting to the 49ers and a fifth-round pick to the Ravens in exchange for Owens.
But the issue was decided only after the NFL worked out a compromise that nullified a trade of Owens to the Ravens.
End of story, right?
If other members of the Ravens organization were willing to live without Owens, Lewis was not. Lewis said this spring that he is not happy that Owens was able to get out of the Ravens trade. Plus, he suggested he would put his feelings into a more physical form when the teams met on the field.
"He's going to have to meet me on the field sometime," Lewis said at the time. "I have no respect for guys who pose and things like that."
Owens has gotten the message.
"I heard it, I processed it, and it is what it is," Owens said Monday. "For whatever reasons, he's (Lewis) upset."
Owens also knows that he just may have to be a little extra careful.
"Everybody knows that Ray is a high energy guy, and he's going to play that way and talk that way," Owens said. "He plays the same whether it's the Pro Bowl or the regular season. He plays hard and I play that way as well."
Asked if he thought there was a chance some of the Ravens defenders may try to come after him, Owens acknowledged that it was a possibility.
"They may," he said. "But this is a situation where we're going to play football. There may be a situation where they may have some shots at me, but in the running game, I might be able to return the favor."
Talking with reporters in Baltimore, Lewis said, "Sooner or later, no matter how much he talks about what he's not scared to do, he still has to line up and play football."
Lewis and Ravens safety Ed Reed also noted that Owens had just three catches for 23 yards when the Ravens beat Owens' San Francisco team by a 44-6 score last season.
"T.O. is a nobody," Reed said Monday, according to CBS Sportsline.com. "He's nothing."
Friday's game, the first of two meetings between the teams - the other coming on Oct. 31 during the regular season - serves as a reminder of the intense battle for Owens' services the Eagles and the Ravens waged during the offseason.
Both teams had power advocates presenting their cases in Hawaii for Pro Bowl last February. Quarterback Donovan McNabb spoke for the Eagles while Lewis presented the Ravens' side.
"We were both out there doing appearances and doing things for the league, so we had opportunities to talk," McNabb said. "But everyone was communicating at that time. Ray had been talking to him, Peyton Manning had been talking to him.
"It wasn't like we were recruiting . . That's pretty much something we have no hand in. But Ray was working him. It's funny what I'm hearing - the back and forth between the two - but everything was cool then."
In fact, Owens said he still considers Lewis a friend.
"I have no grudges against Ray," he said. "I'm not sure how he feels about me, but as far as I'm concerned he's my friend. There's nothing there. This just came out of nowhere. It got into a war of words. . . . I'm hoping this is the last time we have to revisit this. I just want to play ball. There are reasons why I'm here and not there."
For one thing, Owens has been groomed in the West Coast offense, and he wanted to go to a team that played that style. He also wanted a chance to play with McNabb.
"I know that Kyle Boller is not a bad quarterback but he's an up-and-coming quarterback that I'm not really familiar with," Owens said of the Ravens' starter.
Owens also said he believed he could be the last element that could get the Eagles into the Super Bowl.
"It's an opportunity of a lifetime," Owens said. "I think this team has been the verge of getting to the big show, and I felt I could be the last piece of the pie."