The signing of Terrell Owens last March naturally came with a lot of fanfare. Accompanied with that hoopla was a lot of hope that the playmaking wide receiver could be the missing piece to get Buffalo over the hump and to the postseason. Owens believed he could be that difference maker and raise the production of the offense in 2009, but those plans were compromised by a number of factors in a season of missed opportunities.
For Owens, not being able to contribute more to an offense struggling as much as Buffalo's has this season has been the most difficult part. Being a productive receiver Owens is dependent upon a lot of other aspects of an offense functioning properly.
With 51 catches for 764 yards and five total touchdowns, Owens has fallen short of the numbers that most are used to seeing from him, especially in his first season with a new team. But he has avoided shifting blame.
"Personally, I haven't really played up to my standards," said Owens. "As I've said all year long there are a lot of things that factor into that, but at this point it is what it is. I've tried to remain focused and positive and tried to go out on a winning note. That's the best you can do at this point because you know you're not going to the playoffs."
Missing the playoffs is what leaves Owens most disappointed with his season in Buffalo. He and his teammates naturally believed they were capable of more. Regret, however is not something he feels despite how trying things have been this season on the league's 30th ranked offense.
"No, not at all," he said. "My thing is I know where the success lies with any football team and that's including us. It starts up front on both sides of the ball. If you look across our offensive line we haven't had a consistent group of guys that have been in there since the beginning of the season. We've brought guys in off the street and had a lot of injuries and that's factored into why we haven't been fluid on offense.
"It takes time to jell and if you start with a group of guys in training camp and you sustain that and everybody is jelling together then you're going to have success, but it's been haywire and a lot of injuries have happened. It's been a number of things, penalties, turnovers. You can go down the board."
Owens doesn't feel like he has let Buffalo down necessarily, but he laments not being able to do more to make the Bills more successful in the win column.
"I just feel bad because I'm a competitor and I came here to help get this team to the playoffs," he said. "Knowing the situation that they haven't made the playoffs the last 10 years, I felt I could come in here and be an added piece considering what they had done the year before. It just didn't happen. Since the last preseason game there were a number of things that factored into it, from the firing of the offensive coordinator, the release of Langston Walker, a rash of injuries, the head coach gets fired and we had a quarterback shuffle throughout the year. It's been tough."
As much as his production on the field has shrunk due to a lot of developments that were out of his control there is one area where Owens believes he has improved.
"I still feel God put me in this situation for whatever reason. Obviously it wasn't for the reason that I envisioned, but he has a plan," Owens said. "I think I've grown a lot through this whole process. It's been tough. It's been frustrating. There have been times where I just wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, but I know that wouldn't be the right thing for me to do and wouldn't really help the situation at all. That's part of me growing and maturing along the way."
In the past, in a season as frustrating offensively as the Bills' has been the Terrell Owens of the past may have been more outspoken. He's come to the realization that he's a polarizing figure on any team, particularly one that hasn't enjoyed much success of late. Anything remotely critical would be used against him and his team. So after 14 years in professional football, Owens chose his words more wisely than he ever has before.
He's also helped to mentor some of the younger receivers on the roster, especially James Hardy who has picked the veteran wideout's brain on an almost daily basis.
"It's been a joy to be around a lot of the guys and get to know them," Owens said.
He eclipsed the 1,000-catch plateau this past Sunday at Atlanta, but it rang hollow in a 31-3 defeat. The mark puts Owens in some rarefied air as he is just the sixth receiver in league history to do so. For Owens however, it's not about records, it's about being a champion.
"I just go out and play with a lot of passion because I like the game and God has blessed me with a lot of talent," he said. "To be where I am now coming from where I came from in Alexander City and being a third-round pick and people not expecting me to do much and being in a class or receivers where there were 10 or 11 receivers get drafted before me and some are out of the league I feel like I've had a successful career. I just don't have a Super Bowl ring."
And if his time playing football ends without one, there is sure to be one regret in his storied career.