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Publish Date: 10/29/2005

Celebration cancellation?
Bailey hopes to stop Owens before he gets started Sunday

ENGLEWOOD — Terrell Owens has stacks of ideas stored in his head.

That’s why the Philadelphia receiver is never hurting for celebrations to punctuate a touchdown.

On Sunday against San Diego, Owens had another in a long line of innovative celebrations. Owens pulled out a towel, wiped down the ball and walked away holding the ball up to the crowd as if he were a waiter serving a dish.

So taken with the idea was San Diego’s Keenan McCardell that he imitated the celebration after his score later in the game.

The crowd loves Owens’ antics. But coaches don’t.

“I believe in acting like you’ve been there before, but everyone doesn’t agree with me,” said Denver

coach Mike Shanahan, whose team will host the Eagles on Sunday (2:15 p.m., Ch. 31). “That’s why there are Fords and Chevrolets: Everybody’s got different opinions and different likes and dislikes.

“He’s a great player; he makes plays. Sometimes you tend to look the other way when a guy can perform like that consistently.”

But Owens won’t be celebrating on Denver cornerback Champ Bailey’s watch — or so Bailey hopes.

Bailey will be in charge of making sure Owens doesn’t pull out a Sharpie, hold up some kind of sign, grab a cheerleader’s pom-poms or celebrate on Denver’s logo at midfield.

That’s a big chore. However, Bailey downplayed the responsibility.

“I don’t care who I face,” he said.

There’s no gentle way to say this: Bailey looked horrible against New York’s Plaxico Burress last Sunday. Bailey was called for pass interference twice and holding once, and he gave up a touchdown.

Now one of the best receivers in the league comes to town. Owens is tied for first in catches (44) and fifth in yards (609).

“He has a knack for big plays,” Philly QB Donovan McNabb said.

History is on Bailey’s side, though. In three games against Denver, Owens has never had more than 39 yards and has only one touchdown.

“Who was he with then?” Bailey said.

“San Francisco,” someone replied.

“Enough said,” Bailey answered.

If Bailey’s hamstring was completely healthy, this would truly be a fair fight. But he won’t use that as an excuse.

“If I’m out there, I don’t care if I’m hurt or not,” Bailey said. “I’ve got to play to the best of my ability. You definitely want to be as healthy as you can when you face a guy that tough.”

Bailey versus Owens — that’s worth the price of admission right there. McNabb would pay for a ticket to see them square off.

“Champ is one of the best corners in the game,” McNabb said. “T.O. is one of the best receivers in the game. It makes it exciting.”

Then again, Owens makes everything exciting. He was quite the one-man show during training camp this summer. He feuded with management over a new contract, wouldn’t talk to teammates and was briefly sent home by coach Andy Reid for antics unbecoming of a player.

But that’s all water under the bridge. This is a “what have you done for me lately” league, and Owens has done plenty. The Eagles have even spun that particular drama into a positive.

“It wasn’t quite as dramatic when you’re involved with it,” Reid said.

Even McNabb is on better terms with Owens. They still don’t talk much, but who needs to communicate when you’re scoring touchdowns? Owens and McNabb have hooked up 18 times in their last 22 games.

“He has the speed to get past defensive backs and the agility to get around them,” McNabb said. “There are not too many receivers able to do that consistently, and he’s one of them.”

Denver receiver Rod Smith is the anti-Owens. He never celebrates or draws attention to himself. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t appreciate Owens.

“A lot of the things he’s done, I laugh at,” Smith said. “It’s fun and funny, but it’s not me. I try to fly under the radar.

“If you stop him from getting into the end zone, you don’t have to worry about all the dances. Just stop him, and you won’t see that.”

That’s Bailey’s mission Sunday. And you’ll have to excuse him if he’s not shaking with fear. He’s drawn tough assignments all his life, and this is just another chapter. Bailey has faced Owens twice when Bailey was with Washington, and Owens was held to three catches for 35 yards.

“They’re going to come at me,” Bailey said. “I’ve got to make plays.”

If not, he’s going to see Owens’ latest touchdown creation.



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