Fans worry about Owens' effect on team chemistry

DALLAS -- Loyal Dallas Cowboys fans squirmed in their seats Saturday at sports bars across the city, distressed by news their team had signed volatile receiver Terrell Owens.

The former Philadelphia Eagles receiver already was unpopular with Dallas fans after a stunt he pulled in 2000 when he was playing for the San Francisco 49ers and celebrated on the Cowboys' star logo -- before safety George Teague leveled him.

But most fans Saturday dismissed that affront to Texas pride, instead worrying for other reasons -- namely the possibility that Owens' over-the-top antics and prima donna personality could shake up the team dynamic.

"The Cowboys have had so many problems, and now they're bringing in a head case," said Greg Hardy, 47. "He's going to infest his disease into the Cowboys, just like he did in Philadelphia."

The Eagles released Owens last year just months after he led them to the Super Bowl, fed up with the receiver's demands for a new contract and his bickering with quarterback Donovan McNabb. On Saturday, he signed a three-year, $25 million contract with the Cowboys.

Cowboys fans said the same type of personality conflicts could flare up in Dallas, specifically worrying about how the receiver would get along with quarterback Drew Bledsoe.

"The egos on those two guys are out of this world," said fan Will Younghouse, 22. But he added that Owens would have a harder time bossing around his Cowboys teammates than he did the archrival Eagles.

"I could see him getting whupped, instead of him whupping someone else," Younghouse said.

The job of keeping Owens in line will fall to no-nonsense coach Bill Parcells, and that made some fans feel slightly better about the deal.

"T.O.'s been too much for everyone to handle," Hardy said. But "if anyone can, Bill can."

"He'll kick him off the team before T.O.'s allowed to herd the team," Younghouse said.

And if Parcells does manage to rein in his receiver -- and, more important, if Owens helps the team consistently win -- some said they were willing to look past his behavior.

"The fact that fans are so fickle ... with a superstar, you've got to bend the rules for him," Younghouse said.

Some said they might even be willing to embrace Owens' celebrating on the Cowboys star.

"As long as he's in a Cowboys uniform, if he does the celebration on the star, they'll love him for it," said Russell Davis, 33.