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Originally published August 7, 2012 at 7:02 PM | Page modified August 8, 2012 at 2:02 PM

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For Seahawks, Terrell Owens' rewards outweigh risk

Wide receiver Terrell Owens must be kept on a short leash as he tries to win spot with Seahawks.

Seattle Times staff columnist

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Wow, I agree with Steve Kelly for once! I think that Pete Carroll has demonstrated,... MORE
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RENTON — The worst case scenario for the Seahawks isn't wide receiver Terrell Owens coming into training camp Wednesday dropping passes and running routes so poorly he needs a GPS.

If that happens — and it won't — he'll be gone faster than you can say "Antonio Bryant."

The worst case scenario isn't that Owens walks into the locker room and proclaims to his quarterbacks, "T.O. is back. Now get me the ball."

If that happens — and it won't — he'll be asked to run a 4.45-second 40 out of camp.

The worst case scenario could be slower to develop. It could be the good news that gradually turns bad.

What happens if T.O. still is a reasonable facsimile of T.O.? What if, after about 10 games, he has 40-some catches and six or seven touchdowns? What if, for argument's sake, the Seahawks are 7-3 going into their Thanksgiving weekend game at Miami?

And what if the Hawks lose that game? And Owens has only one reception? And, in the postgame he begins complaining — to his teammates and to reporters — that quarterback Matt Flynn wouldn't throw to him?

What if he turns from pass catcher to poison? What happens if the Seahawks are locked in a dramatic battle with the 49ers in the NFC West and Owens does what he's done before in San Francisco, Philadelphia and Dallas? What happens if he starts to undermine the quarterback and the team?

He could sabotage a December stretch run. He could blow up a promising season.

This is a risk/reward signing. And, despite the inherent dangers, it is a risk worth taking.

In the short term, the Owens rewards far outweigh the risks.

Still, the best-case scenario with Owens could end up being the Seahawks' worst-case scenario, because Owens has a knack for tearing apart a locker room.

He won't be a problem in August or September. He will be on his best behavior because he knows the world, or at least the NFL Network, is watching and this could be his last chance.

Coach Pete Carroll said after Tuesday's practice that Owens was humble when the Seahawks' staff met with him. An aborted season in an arena league can do that, even to a superstar.

But Owens' ego is so large and inflatable that it will have to be monitored every day.

He will be a distraction. Seahawks receivers got a taste of that Tuesday when they fielded dozens of questions about Owens and his personality.

"He's a future Hall of Famer and he's done tremendous things in his career," Doug Baldwin said. "Just being able to hear his thoughts on different things and watch him practice, to be able to learn from him, will be crucial."

The Seahawks' need for a big-play, big-guy receiver who can strike fear in defensive backfields is obvious.

If Owens still can play like T.O., defenses won't be able to stuff eight men on the line of scrimmage. They won't sneak a safety into the box.

Owens could be the best thing that ever happened to Baldwin, tight end Kellen Winslow and running back Marshawn Lynch.

Signing Terrell Owens might look like the act of a desperate team that is willing to take a look at any pass catcher with a successful history.

("Coach Carroll, Keyshawn Johnson is on Line 1. And a man who says he is Michael Irvin is in the waiting room.")

But signing Owens also could be genius.

"He's got a chance to start all over again," Carroll said. "And from here, it's up to him. That's a cool thing. We'll watch it happen."

For this to work — and Carroll's right, it would be really cool to see it work — Owens has to be put on a short leash. He has always acted as if all eyes and every camera were on him. Attention has been his sustenance. This is a guy who had his own reality TV show, after all.

But now, it has to be made clear to him that he doesn't run the show, or the huddle, or the locker room. For the first time in his career, Owens has to remain humble, from August to January.

Or he's gone.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

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