Now I ask myself how much of this is true and how much is made up? Laying down the law T.O. practices, proving Parcells is still in total control Posted: Thursday August 17, 2006 12:40AM; Updated: Thursday August 17, 2006 1:27AM Despite having consistently complained of hamstring pain, Terrell Owens was rumored to have run a 4.48 40-yard dash on Tuesday. OXNARD, Calif. -- If you're wondering why Terrell Owens chose Wednesday to make his sudden return to the practice field after having skipped the 14 previous sessions, the answer is rather simple: The Dallas Cowboys' mercurial receiver apparently decided he'd rather deal with a twinge in his left hamstring than with his sore head coach. SI.com has learned that the previous afternoon, during the team's training-camp practice in Oxnard, Calif., Cowboys coach Bill Parcells approached trainer Jim Maurer and pointedly said, "Look, you tell Terrell that tomorrow I want him out here for practice. Tomorrow's the day. I don't care. Tomorrow's the day." Apparently, Owens got the message, rejoining his teammates on the field Wednesday afternoon for the first time since Aug. 2. And, equally important, Parcells sent a message to his players that he remains firmly in charge of his team. "Before T.O. got back out there, a lot of people were starting to second-guess Bill," one Cowboys player says. "For the first time ever, he'd shown a little weakness, like he might not be totally in control, and like he didn't know how to handle this situation. Because, let's face it, it's been a total spectacle so far." Don't think that the "Tour de Terrell" stunt Owens pulled last week -- wearing the Discovery Channel pro cycling team's silver and blue jersey and a racing helmet while riding his stationary bike on the sideline during practice -- didn't irk Parcells, who reacted disgustedly. "As soon as he saw T.O. in the jersey, and saw all the TV cameras heading over, Parcells got up and walked to the other end of the field," says the same Cowboys player. "It's like he was saying, 'There's no way you're gonna get a shot of me in the same frame as that crap.'" Dallas players are well aware that owner Jerry Jones was a driving force behind the courtship of Owens, who replaced reasonably popular wideout Keyshawn Johnson following the team's near-playoff 2005 campaign. They also know that Parcells absolutely loathes it when a player misses practice with a vague ailment -- and it was natural to question just how injured Owens was. Despite having consistently complained of hamstring pain, the wideout was rumored to have run a 4.48 40-yard dash on Tuesday. An MRI exam on Aug. 5, three days after he said he first injured the hamstring, reportedly came up clear. If the surest way to rile Andy Reid, Owens' former coach in Philadelphia, was to undermine his authority and publicly embarrass his starting quarterback, the quickest way into Parcells' doghouse surely is to do exactly what Owens had been doing for the better part of two weeks. Remember the brouhaha that occurred a decade ago when Parcells, then the Patriots' coach, referred to wideout Terry Glenn as "she"? The infamous jab came because Glenn -- now, incidentally, Dallas's other starting wideout -- had missed a series of practices with a hamstring injury. From the other Cowboys' perspective, it was hard not to imagine that the coach had developed similar feelings about Owens. But until Parcells' ultimatum to Maurer, they weren't sure if the Tuna had the juice or gumption to take on Jones' prized free-agent signee. "We all just sat and wondered, 'Who's gonna win this battle?'" says the Cowboys player. "As a player, you can't help but get distracted when something like that is going on. The guy comes out last every single practice, has somebody carrying his helmet and is always putting on his uniform at the last minute, and then he's out there riding the bike and drawing attention to himself. Even if he's not trying to be a deterrent -- and he clearly is -- it's obvious that the coach isn't happy. "The bottom line is, he appeared to be healthy and wasn't practicing. So we'd sit and wonder, Who's gonna win? How's it gonna go down?'" Give this round to the Tuna -- and stay tuned.