CINCINNATI, Ohio — Terrell Owens had knee surgery Monday, ending his revival season with the Cincinnati Bengals.
The receiver tore cartilage in his left knee two weeks ago, but kept playing. He aggravated the injury while making a cut on the opening series of a 19-17 win over Cleveland on Sunday, forcing him to hobble off the field.
Owens flew to Birmingham, Ala., on Monday and was examined by Dr. James Andrews. The 37-year-old Owens had surgery later in the day.
He tweeted a photo of himself in a hospital gown getting ready for the operation late Monday afternoon.
“BIG THANKS 2 every1 4 their support (and) prayers! I’ll b back on the field …” he tweeted.
Photos of him in a recovery area were posted after the surgery, along with a tweet: “had knee surgery! Will b ok.”
Owens signed a one-year deal with a US$2 million base salary at the start of training camp, when the Bengals were one of the few teams interested. He proved he could still play, leading the team with 72 catches for 983 yards and nine touchdowns.
He ranked among the NFL’s top six receivers in yards and catches heading into the game against Cleveland. He’s a free agent after the season, and hopes to play for two or three more years.
Despite Owens’ big numbers, the Bengals (3-11) had one of their worst seasons. The victory over Cleveland ended a 10-game losing streak that matched the longest in club history for one season. They finish at home against San Diego (8-6) and at Baltimore (10-4).
Cincinnati got the breakthrough win by letting running back Cedric Benson become the focus of the offence again, just like last season. The Bengals swept the AFC North by relying on their running game and defence in 2009. They got away from that this year, wanting a more diversified offence.
Now, they’ll be looking to run in the last two games.
“You ask anyone on this offence, any of those guys up front, and ask them what they would want to do, and they’d say run the ball,” Benson said. “There’s the identity of your team right there. Your team is telling you what they want to do.”
The run/pass question has bedevilled and divided the offence all season. Owens and receiver Chad Ochocinco — hosts of “The T.Ocho Show” on the Versus cable network each week — wanted to throw the ball more. Benson wanted to go back to running behind a line that’s more adept at grinding it out.
As the losing streak went on, Owens became more outspoken, fingering the coaching staff for the offensive struggles. Benson expressed his opinion earlier in the season, then kept quiet while it all fell apart.
“I know the truth and I’m confident not only in myself, but in what I know is right,” Benson said. “I didn’t feel like I needed to say anything to bring anybody down or get any message across.”
Benson carried 31 times for 150 yards — both season highs — against the Browns, a performance that amounted to an I-told-you-so moment. He acknowledged that it was difficult to keep going as the team kept losing.
“I remember telling myself six or seven weeks ago: Do not get sucked into what’s going on,” he said. “What are those deals that horses wear? Blinders? Keep your blinders on.
“It’s almost like a gigantic magnet. No matter how hard you try to avoid that and keep from getting sucked into that here-we-go-again attitude, it just pulls and pulls and pulls at you week after week after week.”
The last two games are a prelude to change. Coach Marvin Lewis declined a contract extension last season and is finishing his deal. Benson and Owens are free agents. The club has a one-year option on Ochocinco. The Bengals will have a high draft pick.
A franchise with only two winning records in the last 20 years will be starting over. Again.