Cowboys release WR Owens

IRVING, TEXAS (TICKER) Dallas Cowboys fans need not worry about bringing the popcorn this season.

The Cowboys on Thursday released wide receiver Terrell Owens, bringing an end to his tumultuous three-year tenure in Dallas.

Owens wasn’t the only high-profile player jettisoned by the Cowboys on Thursday. Five-time Pro Bowl safety Roy Williams also was let go.

The release of Owens comes after a turbulent 2008 campaign in which the flamboyant wideout was caught up in several controversies and the Cowboys - thought to be Super Bowl contenders - failed to make the playoffs.

Team owner Jerry Jones nas been a staunch supporter of Owens and had suggested his star wide receiver would be back at last month’s NFL Combine.

“Terrell Owens was a very productive player who performed at a very high level for all three of his years here in Dallas,” Jones said. “But we have made a decision to move forward without him.”

Owens had signed a $34 million extension last June that included a $12.9 million signing bonus, translating into a $9 million salary-cap hit to the Cowboys for 2009.

A six-time Pro Bowl selection, Owens ranks No. 2 all-time in touchdowns by a receiver with 139, but he has been a lightning rod for controversy throughout his career.

Late in the season, Owens reportedly had a minor falling out with Tony Romo and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, apparently complaining about the quarterback’s propensity to focus on tight end Jason Witten rather than Owens himself.

While each of the three players brushed off any suggestion of an internal conflict, T.O.’s reputation as a clubhouse killer was maintained - particularly when he publicly criticized Garrett’s play-calling.

That incident, and the fact that Owens’ production took a marked dip last season, seemed to play into the decision to finally cut ties with him.

“In the aftermath of the season, we talked about change,” Jones said. “Some of what is changing involves the process and some of it involves people.

“This is a decision that was made based upon consideration for an entire team. We will move on now with a new team - a new attitude - and into a new stadium. The evaluation process and the prospect for change will continue at every level of the organization.”

Initially signed by Dallas in 2006 after a much-publicized release from Philadelphia, Owens told Cowboys fans “to get your popcorn ready” at his introductory press conference - a reference to the show he was planning to put on.

Owens still managed to catch 69 balls for 1,052 yards - his ninth 1,000-yard season in his 13-year career - with 10 touchdowns last season. In his three years with the Cowboys, Owens had 235 receptions for 3,587 yards and 38 touchdowns.

But despite being the only wideout to pull in 10 scoring receptions in each of the last three seasons, Owens left his third NFL team under a cloud of controversy - much like his previous ugly departures in San Francisco and Philadelphia.

Despite a career tinged with conflicts among teammates and management, Owens had put up Hall of Fame numbers in 13 seasons with the Cowboys, Eagles and 49ers, compiling 951 catches (sixth all-time) for 14,122 yards (fifth).

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Updated Thursday, Mar 5, 2009