It’s been a busy summer for National Football League wide receiver Terrell Owens. After sitting on the NFL free agent market for the first half of the year, T.O. signed with the Cincinnati Bengals in late July—just days before the start of training camp. He also kicked off the second season of his reality TV show, The T.O. Show, in July and appeared alongside teammate Chad Johnson Ochocinco on ESPN SportsCenter‘s “Sunday Conversation” earlier this month, where the two revealed their new nickname: Batman (Owens) and Robin (Ochocinco). And this week, Owens is planning to launch his official iPhone app through a partnership with Rock Software.
Yeah, T.O.’s been a busy man. But not too busy to talk to VIBE.com for a few minutes about what’s going on in his life right now. Grab your popcorn—it’s T.O. time. —Chris Yuscavage
VIBE.com: So, where do I even start, man? It’s been a busy summer for you, huh? It sounds like you’ve had a lot going on.
T.O.: Busy as in what? [Laughs] I haven’t been doing a whole lot besides my normal taping of [The T.O. Show] for the second season. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to be doing football-wise until the [Buffalo] Bills came out and said they weren’t going to resign me. Other than that, I was just sitting around and waiting. I was going about my business as far as working out and trying to keep myself in shape and waiting for a team to show some interest.
I imagine that you’ve gotten used to teams pursuing you hard in the offseason. Why do you think it took so long for a team to scoop you up this time around?
Well, a lot of it was the media putting out there why teams shouldn’t sign me. I think that was more based on what they thought of my character and the reputation that I had and things that had happened in the past. It was more so about that than what I could do to help a team. So, you know, listening to all that was frustrating.
It seems like everything worked out for you, though. You signed with the Cincinnati Bengals right before training camp, so you didn’t miss any time and got to get with the team right away.
Yeah, I think everything happens for a reason. And I feel good about where I am now. I’m learning a new system. I’m learning about my new teammates. I’m getting to play with some great athletes on the offensive side of the ball. It’s just an adjustment. Just like anybody going to a new team, it’s almost like I’m a rookie again.
Has that been the most difficult part so far?
With me signing right at the beginning of training camp, I felt like I was a little behind. I didn’t know the team plays. I didn’t have any chemistry with my teammates. I didn’t know anything. Once I got to training, I basically had to learn everything on the go.
The one thing everyone has been talking about is you teaming up with Chad Ochocinco this season. Over the course of the last 10 years, you two have probably been two of the most outspoken, controversial players in the NFL. But I give you a lot of credit because, from working at VIBE, I know how hard it is for NFL players to brand themselves like you two have. It’s hard to cover football players a lot of times because people just don’t know who they are. Like, I can’t tell you how many running backs I’ve wanted to cover that…
Well, you know, running backs and anybody else, they’re not as handsome as wide receivers.
[Laughs] Ohhh, that’s what it is?
Yeah, you know, when you’ve got a handsome face, it’s really not that hard to put your face out there. [Laughs]
I also understand that you recently just got your own iPhone app just like Chad. How did that come about?
Yeah, I partnered up with Rock Software, which is the same company that put together Chad’s iPhone app. Basically, the app is designed to allow me to have a little more interaction with my fans. They get to see me on TV and during interviews and everything, but the app allows them to see another side of me.
Is the app similar to Chad’s? His has quotes and letters from his fans and stuff like that. Will yours follow that format?
Yup, it’s something like that. It follows that same sort of format. It’s just another outlet for me, really, another way for me to stay in touch with my fans.
As a football player, though, how important is it for guys to know how to brand themselves? You and Chad have both done a phenomenal job making yourselves household names. But it also comes at a price, with fans and the media labeling you guys selfish and me-first kind of guys.
Very important. Myself and guys like Chad do what we can to try to market ourselves because sometimes companies don’t want to take a chance on us because of the negative press that we may get. And a lot of the time, the media’s portrayal of us isn’t true. It’s unfair how we’ve been labeled as the bad boys of the league. Chad and I just have outgoing personalities. We’re fun guys to be around. And I think there’s a lot of media outlets that keep us apart when it comes time to try to connect with these major brands and do major endorsement deals because of the negative press and the portrayal that the media has of us.
How do players like you and Chad try and combat that?
We go out and, being the strong men that we are, we stay positive and do us in the most positive way we know how. We’re two athletes that are outspoken. A lot of people know who we are for the right reasons. We’re not out there creating any drama. We’re not getting into bar fights or getting DUIs or getting into any domestic allegations. We do things the fun way and that’s all we can do.
I happened to see on Twitter that you recently retweeted a couple of tweets directed at you by fans that touched on the Brett Favre situation. They basically alluded to the fact that if you tried to pull something like Brett Favre is pulling right now, you’d be getting ripped left and right by the media. You didn’t say it directly but I got the sense you were saying it by retweeting those comments. Do you think you’d be treat differently by the media if you were in the situation Brett Favre is in right now?
If Chad or myself was in that situation, the media would be all over us about us being selfish. They would probably be saying we need to be in camp with our teammates going through the grind. It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve played in the league. They would see that as a distraction because it’s something that’s gonna be talked about on a daily basis. They’d be saying it’s a distraction to [our] teammates because they have to answer questions about it everyday. So, yeah, me and Chad talked about it and we know it [the treatment we would get from the media] would be the total opposite if it was one of us.