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Originally published August 8, 2012 at 12:03 PM | Page modified August 9, 2012 at 5:31 PM

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Terrell Owens makes practice debut with Seahawks

Wide receiver Terrell Owens wore a new number in his first workout with the Seahawks.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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RENTON — The scrutiny of Terrell Owens' time in Seattle started before he even took the field.

It began Sunday evening when Seattle's interest in Owens first became evident, continued through his contract agreement Monday and built to Wednesday morning when more than half a dozen TV cameras waited for the 38-year-old receiver to to run onto the field for his first practice with his new team.

"Must be a playoff game, right?" asked fellow receiver Braylon Edwards as he jogged onto the field.

Nope, just the debut of The T.O. Show in Seattle, which got under way at exactly 10:13 a.m. on Wednesday. Let the record show that he looked great in a uniform, sounded even better behind a microphone and had the kind of up-and-down day of practice you'd expect from someone who has been out of the NFL more than a year.

"A little rusty," Owens said afterward, "but just glad to be out here. Grateful for the opportunity the Seahawks have given me."

The opportunities came his way immediately. He caught a curl route against backup cornerback Phillip Adams and made a catch on a slant versus Coye Francies. He also got jammed by cornerback Richard Sherman at the line on one play, and pushed to the ground by Brandon Browner on another.

"I was just extra excited to be going up against him," Browner said.

"That's not just another receiver. That's T.O., you know what I mean? One of the legends."

Wednesday wasn't an audition for Owens so much as the first step of a comeback. The most significant fact about his day at practice wasn't necessarily how he played, but where: flanker. That's the spot where Sidney Rice is the starter.

Other than that, Day One was tame. Owens did not set the locker room on fire, literally or figuratively. He didn't swipe owner Paul Allen's parking spot or make a declaration about who coach Pete Carroll should be starting at quarterback.

He showed up, took jersey No. 10 because 81 was taken and said all the right things about his return to the NFL and his role with the Seahawks.

"It's all about, for me, now, being a part of something rather than being the center of something," Owens said. "And I understand. Obviously, a lot of the media is here because of me, and again, I've changed in a lot of ways in a lot of things that have occurred in the last two years."

He suffered a torn knee ligament last April, spent last year out of the NFL entirely and in May of this year he was released by an indoor football team in Allen, Texas — oh, and made an appearance on "Dr. Phil" regarding his role as a father, also in May.

Carroll said Tuesday that Owens was hungry and humbled, an assessment Owens agreed with.

"I think a lot of people don't probably expect me to use that word, 'humble,' " he said. "But again, there has been a lot of moments within the last two years that have had me face, and say, that word."

Of course, this is the honeymoon period. The Seahawks see a no-risk proposition in which they get one of the most prolific receivers in history — one who caught 72 passes just two years ago and ranks No. 2 in the league in career receiving yards.

It was no exaggeration to say the rest of the league was watching on Wednesday. The NFL Network reported from the Seahawks' practice. So did ESPN as Owens attracted the most attention for any Seahawks debut since Brian Bosworth.

"Without the helicopter landing, of course," said Dave Wyman, the former Seahawks linebacker, who was Bosworth's training-camp roommate.

Yes, the Boz did land in Kirkland on a helicopter and wound up Wyman's roommate. But Bosworth also signed the biggest contract in team history.

Owens is a veteran being given a chance that isn't unlike Franco Harris got in Seattle. The former Steelers running back was a pretty big deal when he showed up in 1984, signed after Curt Warner suffered a season-ending knee injury.

"We were desperate," said John Nordstrom, the Seahawks' former owner. "It wasn't clear whether Franco could still play."

And how long did it take to see that Harris no longer had it?

"About 20 minutes," Nordstrom said.

After 20 minutes of watching Owens on Wednesday, it looked like a player just getting started, not someone winding down.

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @dannyoneil.

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