Ochocinco arrives, and gets to work
FOXBOROUGH - The moment is captured in the tiny square of Chad Ochocinco’s popular Twitter account. His avatar, once only a picture of himself, has been replaced with a photo of Ochocinco grasping Tom Brady’s hand with a two-handed shake on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium.
Hours after Ochocinco landed in New England, he strolled onto the field yesterday wearing a long-sleeve shirt and sweatpants with a Patriots logo on the side. The fans who gathered to watch the second day of training camp erupted with applause when they spotted the receiver, who seemed to be in awe of the moment.
He spent the first minutes of the session chatting with Brady and offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. During the team’s walkthrough, Ochocinco observed and chatted with players including Deion Branch. The experience moved Ochocinco enough to log onto his Twitter account after the session, change his avatar, and tweet, “It’s 1 thing to jump and be able to land on 2 feet but I had no idea I was landing in Heaven. . . .’’
Brady has witnessed his share of trades in his 11 previous seasons at quarterback with the Patriots. So he understands that sometimes these things work, sometimes they don’t. But taking into account everything that makes up the career of Ochocinco, who has played 10 seasons, it’s worth the risk.
“He’s been a very prolific receiver,’’ Brady said. “I think he’s had a bunch of production over the years and hopefully he can come in here and find a role on this team, as we’re all trying to do. We’re all trying to come out here and see what we can make of this year and see what kind of role we can make for ourselves.’’
Ochocinco, who didn’t address the media, has created his own spotlight in a career that began with the Bengals in 2001. He is one of 11 receivers on the roster vying to become one of Brady’s favorite targets. The challenge is a tough one for anyone who takes a look at the Patriots’ playbook - and with the limitations of the lockout, the climb is even more difficult.
“I think the toughest part is going to be learning the offense,’’ said Wes Welker who joined the Patriots in 2007, after three seasons with Miami. “We’re so complicated, so different from anyplace where he’s been. It’s just going to be a little different. We’re just going to try to help him along and bring him along slowly but surely and get him out there and get him playing with us.’’
Ochocinco doesn’t seem intimidated by the process. Moments after the trade was made official, he was on the field wearing No. 85 on his Patriots pullover. He put on his helmet and began running drills. He worked on routes and took a number of throws from Brady.
If this project works, it means one more element of the Patriots’ offense teams have to prepare for. But veteran receivers haven’t always had the best luck. In 2009, veteran Joey Galloway didn’t make it through the season after struggling with and failing to stick in the offense.
And without the luxuries of offseason training in a fixed environment, it may take longer for all receivers to catch on, Brady said.
“I don’t think anybody knows at this point and I think we’re just trying to focus on what we can really control, which is, I know there’s been a lot of new rules put in place and I know that everyone is trying to get adjusted to the rules and come out here and have good practices,’’ Brady said. “So for the time that we’re out here, we ran a lot of plays [Thursday], we’re going to run a lot of plays [yesterday] and lot of plays [today]. We’re just going to try to come out here and execute them and learn from them and go in there and make the corrections. So we can be a better football team at the end of the day than we were at the start of the day.’’
Over the years, Brady said he has been able to develop a relationship with Ochocinco and could sense the receiver’s excitement about an opportunity with the Patriots. There won’t be any easy way to blend into the system, but he expects Ochocinco and all of his teammates to find their own way to contribute.
“We do realize we have a lot of work to do,’’ Brady said. “We have to put a lot of time together, spend as much time as we can together talking about plays and routes and details of our offense because what makes our offense, I think very unique, is the detail that is put into it. It’s not an easy offense to learn. I think that guys who are in their fourth year, like Wes, can really excel in it because he’s way past the learning stage. He can really think about every route, every detail. That just comes with time. That comes with work.’’