And yet he was still the talk of Seahawks training camp.
"Terrell Owens is an unbelievable talent. They brought him in because that's what Pete Carroll believes in is competition," Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin said. "He's going to come in immediately and compete for a job, and that's what we're all about here."
Owens agreed to a one-year deal with the Seahawks on Monday, before he returned to Los Angeles late Monday night. He was expected back at the team's facility later Tuesday for meetings and to be on the practice field wearing No. 10 on Wednesday morning.
When he steps on the field, it will be his first NFL practice since late December 2010 when he was enjoying a season of revival with the Cincinnati Bengals.
That was before the 2011 calendar year when Owens failed to receive any NFL offers following surgery on his left knee and before Owens tried to start his comeback this spring playing for the Allen Wranglers of the Indoor Football League. He had 35 catches for 420 yards and 10 touchdowns while playing eight of 11 games, but was released and lost an ownership stake in the team in May.
Now comes another comeback shot with the Seahawks, who are either desperate or shrewd in their attempts to find a big-bodied receiver for their offense.
Carroll is hoping to strike for a second time with an out-of-work receiver. Two seasons ago it was one-time, first-round bust Mike Williams, who played his way into consideration for Comeback Player of the Year when he led Seattle in receiving. With Williams gone -- cut in July by the Seahawks -- Carroll is hoping Owens or perhaps Braylon Edwards can be that option for a team that has sought bigger receivers.
Baldwin said he didn't view the Owens signing as an indictment on what is currently on the Seahawks roster. Seattle is high on the improvement of Golden Tate, and Baldwin led Seattle in receptions a year ago as an undrafted rookie, but both are smaller receivers. There is also concern about the health of Sidney Rice, who is coming off surgeries this offseason on both shoulders.
The Seahawks still believe there is talent in Owens' 38-year-old frame. Even with a year out of football, Owens has started 201 of the 219 regular-season NFL games he has played. He has 1,078 receptions for 15,934 yards and 153 touchdowns -- the second most in league history.
"He's humble, and he's looking for chance to play," Carroll said. "I think that was a very long football season for him last year for him to sit out. I think he's been in transition for more than just this past season, at Buffalo and through his time at Cincinnati. He's been growing and becoming more comfortable with the way he is and the way he plays, the way he brings it to the practice field, the way he brings it to the locker room."
In regard to concerns about Owens and his troubled relationships with quarterbacks in the past, Carroll spoke with Oakland QB Carson Palmer, who played with Owens in Cincinnati for one season in 2010.
Palmer, who played under Carroll at Southern California, has a high regard for Owens.
"He loved working with him, loved playing with him. He worked out with him, and knows him really well," Carroll said. "It was really pleasing to hear that."
Palmer said he had no problem giving an endorsement for Owens.
"Just knowing (Carroll's) style and the way he goes about teaching and leading his team, I just thought T.O. would be a great fit," Palmer said. "I really enjoyed playing with (Owens). It was a great relationship when I was there, and I just let Coach know I thought he would fit in really well with his style. I think they'll have a lot of success together."
Owens and Palmer worked out together in the offseason along with several other Oakland players. The two exchanged text messages shortly after Owens signed with the Seahawks.
"He was looking for a job anywhere," Palmer said. "I know he's worked extremely hard to come back from the injuries he's had over the past couple of years. He was looking for a spot anywhere he could go."
Owens impressed the Seahawks during his tryout on Monday that was filled with spectators. The crowd included fellow receivers, whom he will be competing with for a job in Seattle.
Baldwin stood amazed watching Owens break out of routes like a 24-year-old player and even more aghast at Owens' reported 40-yard dash time of 4.45.
"That's faster than my pro day, and he's 38 years old," said Baldwin, Seattle's leading receiver last season.
Seahawks defensive lineman Clinton McDonald is one of three players and one coach on Seattle's roster to have played alongside Owens. McDonald and Owens were together two years ago with the Bengals. Owens also played with linebacker Matt McCoy in Philadelphia, running back Marshawn Lynch in Buffalo and Seahawks linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. early in his career with San Francisco.
"He's actually a good locker room teammate," McDonald said. "He laughs with the guys, jokes with the guys. I'm not going to say anything bad about the media but sometimes we can distort the image of a person from previous affairs so my experiences with him in Cincinnati were great."
"Had a couple opportunities to talk with him, hang out with him and gain some knowledge for myself as far as how to keep my body in the offseason, how to keep myself ready to go."