SAN FRANCISCO – Terrell Owens is still in shape and ready for the phone to ring.
“No, I haven’t retired officially,” said Owens, who has not played in an NFL game since the 2010 season. “My motto is you have to stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.”
Owens, 39, an honorary captain for the 49ers on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, was at Candlestick Park to commemorate his 25-yard touchdown pass from Steve Young in the closing seconds against the Green Bay Packers in the 1998 playoffs.
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Before speaking with a handful of reporters on the field, Owens chatted with 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. And what were they discussing?
“Me coming in and working out for the Niners,” Owens joked. “No, I’m just kidding.”
Since Owens has spent nearly three seasons out of the game as a free agent, the 49ers have gone through various stages in which they needed a wide receiver.
The 49ers were short-handed in the 2011 playoffs. And last season, the 49ers signed veteran Randy Moss in the offseason and again were thin at wide receiver for the playoffs. And, again, this offseason, the 49ers had a need after Michael Crabtree’s injury.
“Yeah, there’s disappointment there,” Owens said of the 49ers never contacting him for a workout. “But it is what it is. I can’t really be too salty about it. I thought there was an opportunity there, obviously, when Michael Crabtree went down that I could’ve been a viable option there to come in for a workout. But nothing happened.”
Crabtree last season caught 85 passes for 1,105 yards for the 49ers. Coincidentally, it was the first time a 49ers player had 1,000 yards receiving since Owens accomplished the feat in 2003.
Of course, Owens said he was well-aware of that factoid.
“I’m social-media savvy, so I tend to keep up with a lot of stuff,” Owens said. “And a lot of the fans here and throughout the country, they keep me updated with what’s going on. That’s an unbelievable feat to think that, yeah, you’d think they’d have some receivers that it wouldn’t take that long to do that.
“But Crabtree is a phenomenal receiver, so it’s well-deserved.”
Owens’ tenure with the 49ers ended in acrimony. After his former agent failed to meet a deadline to file the proper paperwork to make Owens a free agent, then-49ers general manager Terry Donahue dealt him to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2004.
Owens said he did not want to leave the 49ers.
“The thing is, it wasn’t how I wanted it to end,” Owens said. “Unfortunately, there were a lot of things that happened. They traded me. I didn’t want to leave. I understand there are a lot of things that go on with a lot of management stuff. But, again, like I said, it wasn’t me. We both moved on past that, and I did what I had to do after that.”
Owens played seven NFL seasons with the Philadelphia, Dallas, Buffalo and Cincinnati since leaving the 49ers. But Sunday was the first time he had been in Candlestick since his departure from the 49ers.
“I’m glad I got an opportunity to be here today, because if I hadn’t been here today, I don’t know if I ever would’ve come here to a game or just be here prior to it being demolished,” he said.
Owens said he wanted a chance to return in the past to play against the 49ers.
“Even being on the free-agent market, there were times I looked at other teams just to see who was going to be playing the 49ers to see if I could get on a team to play them,” he said. “I never got back here. This is my first time being back since I was traded.”