It was going to be like Christmas morning for the 49ers beatwriters. At 9:50 a.m., we were going to have a conference call with Terrell Owens, the first time we've spoken to the controversial wideout since he left town early in 2004. (Actually, he had a media embargo during the 2003 season (was it something we wrote?), so most of the reporters here hadn't conversed with him since 2002.) The expectation was that Owens, noticeably more mellow now than in his San Francisco days, would speak philosophically about his time with the 49ers. That he would go deep about Jeff Garcia, the quarterback he mercilessly slammed early in 2004. That he'd reminisce about the Sharpie, the Dallas star and the Steve Mariucci years. That he'd supply an endless amount of quotes that would would fill our notebooks like a stocking full of goodies on Christmas morning.
Then the Grinch called. A lady from the Cowboys PR staff phoned in at 9:25 a.m. to say that T.O. was under the weather and that Tony Romo would be filling in on the conference call. Christmas was ruined. Ok, Romo salvaged it a bit by talking at length about his relationship with T.O., who tearfully defended Romo at the end of last season. In many ways, you might consider Romo the anti Garcia - someone who is beloved by Owens and who doesn't get upset when Owens says things in the heat of the moment. "I'm not a prideful guy," Romo said. "I can accept certain things." About Owens' lugubrious defense of him, Romo said: "I just think it showed how much he cared about his teammates. ... We're lucky to have him on this football team. I wouldn't trade him for another receiver in the league." Can you imagine Garcia or Donovan McNabb saying that?
And don't get your hopes up, 49ers fans. The illness that prevented Owens from spending 15 minutes on the phone this morning probably won't keep him from Sunday's game. In fact, he may practice today. Asked about Owens' availability Sunday, coach Wade Phillips said, "We don't know right now. He may be at practice. So I don't think he'll miss a whole lot. But he was sick this morning."
Romo also said that his injured pinkie, heavily bandaged during the Cowboys' Sunday night win over the Redskins, was improving by the day. Romo admitted that the digit may have affected him on some throws against the Redskins but that he didn't anticipate any problems against the 49ers.
-- Matt Barrows