T.O. and Ochocinco? Bengals are intrigued

Terrell Owens, an unrestricted and unsigned free agent, is being courted by the Bengals, who already have 10 receivers reporting to training camp this week.
Terrell Owens, an unrestricted and unsigned free agent, is being courted by the Bengals, who already have 10 receivers reporting to training camp this week. ASSOCIATED PRESS

CINCINNATI — At the dawn of another football season, the Cincinnati Bengals are considering an option more commonly associated with Dick Vitale's call of a basketball game: "Get a T.O., baby!"

Mike Brown, team president, confirmed Monday the Bengals are interested in signing six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Terrell Owens and have extended an offer.

"He's a good player. He changes field position," Brown said at Paul Brown Stadium, site of the team's annual pre-training camp media luncheon. "Makes a lot of long plays. Plays to win games.

"I think I'd rather have him line up on our side of the ball than the other side of the ball."

Bengals players are due to report to camp at Georgetown College on Wednesday, with the first workout scheduled Thursday morning at 9.

Cincinnati went 6-0 in divisional play and 10-6 overall last season en route to winning the AFC North. The New York Jets knocked out the Bengals, 24-14, in a wild-card playoff game.

The 2010 Bengals may be the most talented in Marvin Lewis' eight seasons as coach.

The hot topic Monday, though, was T.O.

Owens has been running routes in California, with Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer throwing the passes. Both Palmer and Bengals ace receiver Chad Ochocinco have lobbied for Owens.

Lewis, for one, listens.

"I think Carson's comments to me ... they resonate well," Lewis said.

Owens, 36, comes with a reputation. He's been called disruptive, self-centered, a cancer. And worse.

Brown offers another opinion.

"When he was here, I was surprised. I met with him personally and, privately, he is not at all the way his public image is depicted," Brown said. "He's a pleasant person, a quiet person. I found him engaging, and I do that with my own eyes on this sort of thing.

"I think that if he chose to come here that he could help our team, and we'll see how that plays out. It's going to be his decision."

Brown has a reputation, too — for seeing good in players where others can see only bad.

"I'm not going to defend that. I have the right to do it, and I choose to do it," Brown said. "Do I see good in people? I think most people have good in them. ... This is a 36-year-old man. He's been though a lot. He's proven as a player. And, as a person, I have described how I saw him."

Without Owens, the Bengals have 10 wide receivers due to report to Georgetown.

Top returnees are Ochocinco and Andre Caldwell. Off-season additions include the oft-injured Antonio Bryant and Matt Jones. Rookie receivers include third-round pick Jordan Shipley and sixth-rounder Dez Briscoe.

The addition of Owens could limit opportunities for some younger receivers.

"That's what you're balancing," Lewis said. "Somebody's going to get stifled. There's no way around that. It's one of the difficulties of professional sports, is that balance and what is the best thing — 2010 and in the long range."

With or without Owens, Brown is optimistic.

"I thought last year we had a successful season. We just didn't end on the note we wanted to end on, and that rankles," he said. "But we proved we have a good team. If we're healthy, we can be a team that can play with anyone.

"We have the ambition to have that one golden year. You always do when you start out. But this year more than most in recent times. I think we have a better shot at it."