IRVING, Texas -- When Terrell Owens signed with the Dallas Cowboys two years ago, he announced, "Get your popcorn ready." When he signed an extension Tuesday, the club had the popcorn ready for him -- a giant bowl of the buttery stuff, big enough to feed the entire offensive line.
"That's funny," Owens said, scooping a few kernels into his mouth.
The bowl was so big it took two people to carry it into the room. Owens knew a surprise was awaiting him. Seeing what it was, he walked up laughing, smiling and getting a bit hungry.
"This is your signing bonus," team owner Jerry Jones cracked.
Jones wishes he got off that cheaply. Owens actually cashed in a $7 million bonus, plus a three-year extension worth around $27 million.
Coincidentally, he signed his deal the same day the Cowboys got their first look at their newest standout pass defender, Adam "Pacman" Jones. Although he's still technically suspended, he's allowed to do everything up to the regular season, and he went through his first practice Tuesday.
"I would've prevented that in a second," said Owens, who missed the workout because he was flying back from New York, where he had business with the NFL office.
By taking care of Owens now, the Cowboys helped their salary cap for the upcoming season. They also helped keep their locker room free from what Owens said "absolutely" would have been the distraction of him going through the season as a free-agent-to-be.
Just to clarify, he said the problem would've come from repeated questions, not for anything he would've done or said.
Owens has maintained for months that his status was no big deal. He not only said that to reporters, he told agent Drew Rosenhaus, "I don't want to talk about nothing unless it's something for real."
"It's almost like a kid expecting Christmas," Owens explained. "You don't want to get in that situation where you get your hopes up and then nothing happens."
T.O. knew there had been talks in recent weeks. He got a hunch a deal was close when Rosenhaus flew to join him in New York on Monday.
Owens got the same salary range as Randy Moss. He's also locked up through 2011, when he'll turn 38.
Jones downplayed the age, noting Owens' dedication to fitness and his production. He's already among the career top 10 in catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns; he's the active leader and No. 3 all-time in TDs. He's also focused on the one glaring omission from his resume: A Super Bowl victory.
"I've been thinking, 'What can I do for my game to get to another level?'" Owens said. "Honestly, I'm going to find ways to work out harder, do things differently, to really escalate my game."
As surprising as it might be for Owens to have controversy-free contract negotiations, here's a bigger stunner: If he plays out this contract, he'll have lasted six seasons in Dallas.
That's a heck of a lot longer than critics expected when he arrived to a wary fan base and a reluctant coach who referred to him as "the player." Owens' first season was marred by injuries, an overdose and all sorts of wackiness.
Then Bill Parcells stepped down as coach. Owens has rarely stopped smiling; one notable exception was when he broke down crying in defense of Romo after a playoff loss.
"Upon signing here, I never really knew what to expect," Owens said Tuesday. "At this point today, I'm very happy. I know I'm a Cowboy for life. I couldn't be more ecstatic about what's going on now."
He added: "This contract really, for a lot of people, it signifies money and they see dollar signs. But for me, it signifies commitment."
Jerry Jones said Pacman looked good for a guy who has been out of the league more than a year.
"He told me the other day he gets sore because he's really been pushing himself the last couple of weeks," Jerry Jones said. "But, in our initial look at him, he's probably in as good shape as anyone out there -- not ready to play football, but in good shape."
Pacman remains suspended from the regular season, but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday that the cornerback-kick returner can do everything else. Goodell will rule on Jones' regular-season status by Sept. 1.
"I think we should be careful creating a graduation scenario here," Jerry Jones said. "He wasn't reinstated, but he's getting [a] chance. That's a plus, but nothing more. ... I had hoped that we could create enough at the league office that the way we're doing it would allow him to do that."
Now that Pacman is this close, Jerry Jones already is envisioning him on the field -- wearing No. 21, just like Deion Sanders wore for the Cowboys. Sanders has become sort of a big brother to Pacman, trying to help him follow the rules of the NFL and society.
"I see it now. I see it right now," Jerry Jones said. "I think he's got the resolve. I think he can help our team. ... I know I feel good about it. I hope that will make our fans feel better about it."
Owens is looking forward to the practice-field competition with Pacman. The one time they faced each other, Owens won but Jones left with T.O.'s cleats because he didn't score a touchdown.
"Maybe I'll have him wear them out to practice," Owens said. "If I score on him, he has to wear them the next day."