PHILADELPHIA -- The popcorn: Get it ready.
At 48 years old, Hall of Fame wide receiver Terrell Owens is returning to professional football. He is joining the Fan Controlled Football league, where he is expected to be paired with quarterback Johnny Manziel on the Zappers for the season's April 16 start.
"I'm looking forward to throwing with Johnny or whomever the quarterback may be," Owens told ESPN. "If it's Johnny Football, it doesn't matter if it's Pee Wee Herman, as long as they throw the ball where it needs to be and ... put it in my catch radius, I'm going to do my best to make some stuff happen with it."
Owens has not played professionally since 2010, when he caught 72 passes for 983 yards and nine touchdowns with the Cincinnati Bengals, but he has never considered himself retired from the game and maintains he can still play at a high level.
"I wasn't given the opportunity to play. That doesn't mean I retired," Owens said of his NFL career. "Has Colin Kaepernick retired? [He's not in the NFL] because he hasn't been given an opportunity.
"I can do a lot of things that people feel I can't do. It's not a matter of me going out there and trying to prove anybody wrong. I just don't like the notion that people see it, even in the National Football League, it's almost like, OK, you've reached a certain age at whatever point in time in your life and they feel like you can't play anymore or your skills decline to a degree. Of course everybody's skills at some point may decline, but I think there are certain people that kind of defy those odds, and I think I'm one of those people."
Owens opened some eyes in 2020 by keeping pace with Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill in a race. More recently, he said he ran the 40-yard dash in the 4.4-second range and remains in great shape.
"If Tom Brady can do it, if they can marvel at some of the things he's done, I'm no different than Tom," Owens said of the 44-year-old Brady. "Yeah, I play the receiver position. Obviously, the risk is much higher, but with anything, with any sport, injuries are part of the game. I don't go into a situation with the notion that I am going to get hurt or I can't take a hit; that makes no sense to me. For me, I know that I'm a special individual.
"So if [an opportunity to play in the NFL] arises or comes about because of playing in Fan Controlled Football league because they see me take hits ... then so be it. But that's not what I'm actively pursuing. It's a partnership with Fan Controlled Football league. It's to help grow what they're trying to do, even attract some guys who may be at home, not doing anything."
The FCF is a 7-on-7 league that empowers fans to make key decisions for their favorite team, including calling plays in real time. Games will be streamed on the Fubo Sports Network. Owens will be miked up for the games, the league announced Wednesday, and an alternate game-day broadcast will include Owens' behind-the-scenes access and sideline interviews with celebrity guests, FCF owners and players.
"Everybody's skills at some point may decline, but I think there are certain people that kind of defy those odds and I think I'm one of those people." Terrell Owens, 48, on his belief he could still play in the NFL
Of being paired with Manziel, Owens said fans should expect "nothing but touchdowns."
"Hey, man, we're both competitors. I hear he's a great competitor," Owens said. "If I can bring any of that competitive Texas A&M magic out of him and bring it to Fan Controlled Football, then let's do it."
Owens starred for 15 seasons in the NFL, playing for the San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills and Bengals. He was named first-team All-Pro five times and made six Pro Bowls. He ranks third all time in receiving yards with 15,934.
He tried to convince his former coach Andy Reid to bring him to Kansas City last season and was also in contact with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he said, to no avail. Perhaps a successful stint in the FCF will open some doors that have been closed to him for the past decade-plus.
"I'm just looking forward to the opportunity ... to get out there and run around and help mentor some guys," Owens said. "Everything that I've done to make myself a Hall of Famer, I'm going to try to do my best to not only just play, but help mentor those guys and help them become better at their craft.
"By no means am I looking at this as something cheesy by any means. When I'm on the football field, guys are out there playing, it's a violent game, it's a fast game. ... My desire, my dedication, my discipline, that's what enabled me to be who I am today as a Hall of Famer. I take the same approach and mindset into Fan Controlled Football."