Then, long after the subject was seemingly put to rest, Jones brought it up again -- with a pretty obvious hint that T.O. is staying.
"You and I both know that the one that you're asking about all the time, if I gave you the answer that you want to hear, then you would've already had it. So the fact you don't have it ought to tell you something. It really should," Jones said.
The response came in the final minute of a roughly 45-minute news conference called to announce that George Strait will headline the first ever event at the team's new $1.1 billion stadium. But since this was the first time Jones addressed a large group of reporters since the Cowboys' season-ending loss at Philadelphia back in late December, far more topics came up.
The subject changed from music to football with a question about whether Owens will be on the roster when Strait takes the stage June 6. Jones was ready with the explanation that "we're evaluating our entire roster."
"There are several decisions on our roster we have to look at," Jones said. "This is the time of year we do that. I'm not trying to be trite, but as you all know we're evaluating players in college, we're evaluating free agents and we're evaluating our own roster. This is an ongoing thing, not any different than this time last year. ... Our roster is our roster. Changes to that are pure, pure speculation."
When told he could end all speculation by saying Owens is staying, Jones said he wouldn't answer "because we're not talking about the roster; he's part of the roster."
"We've got a lot of things we want to look at. Not just to Terrell, but several positions on the team -- backup quarterback and some other areas," Jones said. "So, again, it's not that it's easy or hard. It's just that I'm not doing it."
Jones said stories of locker-room drama were stirred up by media and insisted he's not concerned about such personality clashes.
"Not at all. Not at all. Not at all. Period. I'm just not," he said. "They are a figment of the result. You didn't hear about those things when we were winning. You hear about those kinds of things when we're losing. So I'm just not. And if y'all knew more about some of the things that you write about, you wouldn't be as concerned."
The news conference covered a lot of other ground over the next 15 minutes and was winding down when Jones started talking about how angry people are about the economy. He then accused reporters of being angry that the Cowboys missed the playoffs after being projected to reach the Super Bowl. Next came an explanation of why he hasn't been talking as much lately, despite all sorts of stories swirling around the organization.
"What we're doing here is trying to manage that to some degree," Jones said. "It has nothing to do with information. You're getting every bit of the information that you should have."
He finished that thought with the line about the answer "you want to hear" and the explanation that "the fact you don't have it ought to tell you something."
After answering another stadium-related question, Jones left through a back door.
Also during the news conference, Jones said coach Wade Phillips will be his own defensive coordinator in 2009, replacing Brian Stewart, who was fired.
Jones also spoke about the failure to reach an agreement with Dan Reeves. The former Cowboys player who coached the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons to the Super Bowl was set to join the team as a consultant before the deal fell through at the last minute.
"I think a lot of him and really respect him, but it doesn't surprise me," Jones said. "What happened frankly was the process kind of evolved and it became apparent to me that we weren't on the same page."
In talking about why he's optimistic for the upcoming season, Jones noted that only the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers can be satisfied with how this past season turned out. He added that the Super Bowl-losing Arizona Cardinals are the next most-satisfied but then reminded they went 9-7 last season and struggled over the final month; that's exactly what the Cowboys did, although Jones didn't say it.
"They had a tough time of it their last five games yet they were almost world champions," Jones said. "And so I would say to our fans that I'm as disappointed and as resolved as you could ever imagine to do the best job of putting our team on the field. ... The only thing that's going to take the disappointment away is to win ballgames. That's what we're going to try to do."