Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said yesterday that he doesn't believe the addition of volatile receiver Terrell Owens will be a distration to this year's team.
"He's proven that he's been very productive, and that gives us another real threat competing on our offensive football team," Lewis told reporters yesterday as the Bengals arrived for training camp. "I can't worry about the [past]. We have a lot of good competition, and I think that's the most important thing."
But privately, Lewis may have more reservations about Owens' addition than he's letting on. According to a source with direct knowledge of Lewis' mindset regarding Owens' arrival, the Bengals' coach was not entirely on board with the decision to bring him in.
"He's got big concerns," the source said of Lewis. "T.O. is more than just a receiver, and Marvin is aware of the potential for problems."
Owens is one of several Bengals' players shrouded by controversy. He joins a team that includes cornerback Pacman Jones, wide receiver Matt Jones, defensive tackle Tank Johnson, all of whom have been suspended for a variety of transgressions. Running back Cedric Benson has been arrested twice, most recently for assaulting a bartender last month.
And while he has not been in trouble with the law, colorful wide receiver Chad Ochocinco has been at the center of more than his share of controversy with his comments and on-field celebrations that have led to tens of thousands of dollars in fines levied by the NFL.
It will therefore be interesting to see how Lewis deals with Owens, especially considering the coach's private reservations about his acquisition. Team owner Mike Brown, at the urging of Ochocinco and quarterback Carson Palmer, was the one to sign off on Owens' signing. It doesn't mean Lewis can't grow to embrace Owens; but it does raise a cautionary flag moving forward about whether the receiver's presence will help or hurt the team.
The situation is reminiscent of a previous stint for Owens. When the Cowboys signed him in 2006, it was team owner Jerry Jones who brought him in over the objections of then head coach Bill Parcells. Owens and Parcells never meshed, with Parcells referring to him as "the player." Parcells retired after Owens' first year in Dallas.