Phillips diplomatic in addressing T.O. departure

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
DANA POINT, Calif. -- Oh, you better believe Dallas Cowboys coach Wade Phillips was asked about Terrell Owens.

Phillips, encircled by a gang of reporters, sat down at the NFC coaches' media breakfast Wednesday morning and was peppered with questions about a number of topics. But the club's decision to release Owens was among the most popular.

The diva receiver signed with the Buffalo Bills, who haven't been to the playoffs since 1999, when Phillips was their head coach.

Here are the highlights of what Phillips had to say about T.O.

Why did the Cowboys cut Owens?

Wade Phillips: We appreciate certainly, and I appreciate as a coach, all the great things he did. But we made the decision. We're going forward. We know we've got some young players we think can come in and play for us and help us at wide receiver, and we're going to give them that opportunity -- and younger players I'm talking about, even Patrick Crayton. We have a lot of confidence in Miles Austin. Sam Hurd unfortunately got hurt last year, but he was on the same pace with Miles and then Isaiah Stanback has come through and gotten better and better. All three of those guys ... have a lot of potential and we think they'll come through for us.

What type of player are the Bills getting?

WP: He's an outstanding player. Obviously, I think his numbers are going to be the second-best ever. He's going to be in great shape. He's a hard worker. All the things you want in a football player. I think they're getting a really good football player. One thing you've got to look at with players is production. He's been probably the most productive receiver in the last several years anyway.

Then why would you release him?

WP: Because we feel like we can forward with the guys we have. We think we have some emerging players that are going to make a difference.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said not having Owens around would make Tony Romo a better quarterback. Do you agree?

WP: Well, I think Tony is going to be better as he goes along, certainly. He's certainly accomplished a lot of things as far a quarterback is concerned. He's looking forward to and we're looking forward to this season. I think this is going to be even more of a breakout year for him just because of experience, not because Terrell is or isn't there. I think it's just experience and playing the game. Tony is still 21-8 as the starter the last two years. I think this is a big year for him.

Is the locker room better off without Terrell Owens?

WP: I'm not even going to discuss that because that's why I didn't want to talk about it in the first place. So you begin to talk about last year and all these things -- "This did or didn't happen. Somebody said this." All those things, I'm through with that.

This year. What's important is this year. The greatest stadium in the world, we're opening. Our team is going to have a great attitude. I think they already do now as far as looking forward to this season. That's the way you've got to go. That's the great thing about football. Pittsburgh is last year's champs. They're going to live in the glory for a little while certainly, but all of us are working for this season.

Is Owens a victim of his reputation?

WP: Terrell's situation is like the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Anything that's said or done is going to be reported. And I'm not saying good or bad. What he says and how he's perceived is up to the fans and somewhat the media -- mostly the media reporting it to the fans and then present it themselves as to how they feel about him.

Is Owens' divisiveness overblown?

WP: Sure. Sure. Sure. Just give me a player that works hard, tries to win and has great talent and produces. That's going to be the big thing is replacing his numbers, certainly, but we think we have some young players that can come through for us and make that an easier transition.

Did you speak to Bills coach Dick Jauron about Owens?

WP: No. I would have. I'd be glad to talk to Dick, but that was Buffalo's decision to pick him up. We knew somebody would pick him up, certainly. Again, he's a talented player.