Ochocinco is confident he will catch on quickly

By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / August 31, 2011

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FOXBOROUGH – Chad Ochocinco knows he’s going to be scrutinized. The wide receiver knows he’s going to get an earful from Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and Bill O’Brien as he works to learn the Patriots’ offense.

He knows he’ll be judged by media and fans, who may think he is struggling to assimilate himself into a new system after a decade in Cincinnati.

And to everyone, he says: Bring it on. He wants the criticism from Brady and the coaches, and knows fans and reporters will have their opinions.

Ochocinco is harder on himself.

“I’m just nowhere near where I want to be. I’m my biggest critic anyway,’’ he said yesterday. “Regardless of what you write, what you guys see - I’m the first to judge myself. I’m always aiming for perfection and one of those things about being here, about being in an organization like this, that prides itself on perfection and excellence, you know, I’m sort of putting the pressure on myself to be right and be perfect now. Not later.

“I’m trying to squeeze everything within a short time frame. And it’s somewhat impossible but if I can aim to be as perfect as possible, I think I’ll get up to speed.’’

Ochocinco has been with the Patriots for a month, but in two preseason games, he has two catches – both against Tampa Bay. Brady looked his way in Detroit, but the play ended up an interception.

Brady took the blame, saying he checked down, expecting a blitz that didn’t come.

Ochocinco said he’s heard “little rumblings’’ that it hasn’t been a seamless process learning the offense, but noted he didn’t have the benefit of the offseason program.

“The transition has been good; it’s been fun. I’ve heard small little rumblings that I hadn’t caught on yet, but it’s been just fine,’’ he said. “Not sure why or how it is, but coming from any place where you’ve been somewhere 10 years to come here and learn the verbiage and learn as much as I’ve learned in the past two weeks, I’ve done extremely well. It’s been fun; it’s been enjoyable working with the entire offense.’’

He won’t say that he’s frustrated, calling that emotion a waste of time and energy.

“I’ll be there,’’ he said. “I’ll be there a lot faster than what I’m supposed to be, especially with as much verbiage as I had to learn in such a short period of time. You’ve got to think, there was no offseason program, I would have been here for an eight-week period to learn the offense so everything is crammed into a short period of time, and I’m doing the best I can.’’

In the time he has been here, Ochocinco feels as though he has a lot of the language down. The next step is being able to react, not think about every thing he’s doing on the field.

“It takes time,’’ he said. “I’m still not set in that comfort zone to where I can just be me, you know? And somewhat exhale and [feel like], ‘oh it’s on, you know, let’s play.’ Let’s be realistic: this is the highest levels of football. It’s not easy.’’

By all accounts, Ochocinco is putting in the work to get better, with Brady, the coaches and receivers Wes Welker and Deion Branch, who have also been valuable teachers.

Brady agreed that Ochocinco has to find that comfort level where he can react and play more on instinct.

“He works hard at it, he’s fun to be around, he’s a guy that really loves football and I think you can tell by his attitude out there,’’ Brady said. “I think that he’s been frustrated because he feels like he’s not being himself because he’s still thinking a lot about what he needs to do rather than react.

“And we all do that – we’re all doing that at this time of year, coming off the long layoff from football, we’re all trying to over-think ourselves a little bit instead of going out there and being instinctive and reacting.’’

Brady said he has “no doubt’’ Ochocinco will be an exciting player for the Patriots.

To Ochocinco, the key isn’t just in feeling confident enough to stop thinking so much – it’s being able to get “the look’’ from Brady and know exactly what he wants to convey.

“Tom’s on the field; he sees the field the way I do, and my eyes have to be his eyes and my ears have to be his ears,’’ he said. “And the faster Tom and I get on that same page, the smoother it’s going to go. It’s like a married couple.

“That look. That look is special. And I’ve seen him do it a few times, before I was even here. That’s a deadly combination, it’s a great weapon to have, to not give the defense any hint of what’s going on.”

So critique Ochocinco if you must. He expects it. He holds no grudges. He’s going to keep working hard and having fun.

Shalise Manza Young can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.

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