Will he come back? This question will be asked in earnest among the numerous changes looming at One Bills Drive. Some players just might have played their last games as Bills Sunday, including Terrell Owens, and fans now wonder if the one-year experiment lasts another season.
What the future brings for Owens in Buffalo may not be decided until a new coaching staff is implemented, but the veteran receiver closed the 2009 campaign in productive fashion. At game's end, Owens was high-fiving fans around the stadium before leaving the field.
As the season wound down, Owens was often asked about extending his career in Buffalo. In most cases, the response was centered around waiting until after the season to determine the right situation.
He echoed those feelings Sunday, choosing to leave the door open for a possible return.
"Well, who knows. I think I've addressed that enough the last few weeks. I know everyone is wanting to know, and I think under the right set of circumstances and situation, then yeah. I've always said that I'd be willing to come back," he said. "I think the situation has to be right and I think they've taken a step in that right direction by hiring Buddy Nix as general manager. So that's a start, and this is the start of the offseason for us and we just have to see where it goes from there."
To begin, any return would start with extending his contract past the one-year, 6.5 million structure. The signing in March brought excitement and hopes of invigorating a Bills' offense ranking near the bottom of the league rankings the past five seasons. What transpired, however, were Owens' lowest receiving totals since the 2005 season when he missed the season's last nine games with a broken ankle. The lack of quarterback stability heavily contributed to the stagnant passing game, yet Owens still led the team in receptions (55) and receiving yards (829).
Factors that plagued the team all season such as injuries and inconsistent offensive line play, a unit starting nine different combinations, are areas of concern. Owens commented on these issues and believed hiring Nix was the right first step.
"I think every week we've had someone go do down, and I think obviously we've got to establish something up front, in order for us to be successful in the pass game, and even the run game," he said. "We have to have some stout guys up front and we've been playing with a suffering line throughout the year. So hiring Buddy Nix is a start and so he'll address those issues."
While the off season remains uncertain, Owens controlled what he could against the Indianapolis Colts. In bitter and snowy conditions, as the Bills downed the Colts 30-7, Owens caught four passes for 65 yards and one touchdown. The 41-yard hookup from Ryan Fitzpatrick in the second quarter was his fifth receiving touchdown of the season and gave the Bills a 14-point lead.
"I just ran right by the guy and Fitz put the ball in the right situation and made the play," Owens said. "It definitely felt good, obviously, to get that play, to extend our drive, and it was good for the fans."
"Yeah, I mean he wanted to go deep. He thought that with the corners having trouble transitioning from the backpedal to the run, there were a couple where the wind down our sideline did push it a little bit," Ryan Fitzpatrick said. "That one, I didn't put that much air on it and Terrell went and got it and scored."
Owens usually shies away from acknowledging his career statistics. He admits the record-breaking accomplishments go personally unnoticed until the media asks. And they were asking after the season finale because he reached another milestone in his accomplished 14-year career.
After becoming the sixth player in NFL history to record 1,000 career receptions against Atlanta last week, Owens figures Sunday moved him into third place on the NFL's all-time receiving yardage chart surpassing Tim Brown.
"I don't focus on records a whole lot. Again, that's not something that I really pay attention to unless someone brings it up. I know a lot of people, they say that I'm selfish and arrogant and this and that. I play with a lot of confidence, and the things that I've accomplished throughout my career has been due to a lot of dedication and a lot of hard work," Owens said. "Overall you can never discount my body of work. No matter what, people can say this and that about me but my numbers speak for themselves and that's something that they can't take away from me."
Of course, another non-playoff season leaves expectations of Owens' signing unfulfilled. If Sunday's game goes down as his last in Buffalo, he certainly departs on a high note. A convincing home victory in frigid weather was fun too.
"Well yeah, that's the thing; you have to get caught up in the moment. Once all that stuff settles down, it's back to freezing. So I tried to keep myself as warm as possible when I was over there on the sideline, but this game was fun from the kickoff," he said. "We came out running the ball, Fred running the ball the way he has all year, for him to get 200 yards, that's amazing. So, he definitely did what he had to do in the run game, when the shots were there we took them and it was just great to end this year out with a win."