Ochocinco doesn't speak up - or out
INDIANAPOLIS - He said all the right things, which wasn’t exactly what reporters were hoping to hear from Chad Ochocinco yesterday at Super Bowl Media Day.
The fourth estate was hoping that the Lord of Twitter (with some 3 million followers) would pop off like the brash, outspoken, outlandish receiver he was for a decade with the Bengals.
Now that he finally earned a trip to the Super Bowl, in his first season with the Patriots, the media hoped Ochocinco would make headlines, stir some controversy, with juicy sound bites.
But a subdued Ochocinco, barely audible at times, seemed more interested in blending into the background - which is what he did in the Patriots offense this season.
When he spied NFL spokesman Greg Aiello on the periphery of the media throng, Ochocinco pleaded with him to throw a lifeline. But Aiello could offer no such rescue.
After making himself scarce to the media for much of the season, Ochocinco yesterday was required to face the questions about his first season with the Patriots.
“If it was emotionally draining, I think I would have spoke out like I did in the past,’’ Ochocinco said. “I took this as a challenge, as a lesson.
“I think it was a test from you-know-who upstairs, God. Will he be able to handle himself in different circumstances when he’s not that guy, if he’s not that main focal point? Will he be able to handle it?
“And I think I did extremely well.’’
Ochocinco was unable to produce on the field, however. After the Patriots signed him to a $6 million free agent deal, he made 15 catches for 276 yards and one touchdown. Twice he was inactive, most recently for the 23-20 victory over the Ravens in the AFC Championship game.
“The winning experience is always great,’’ said Ochocinco, who suffered through eight non-winning seasons in Cincinnati, where he led the team in receiving for seven seasons and departed as the Bengals’ career leader in receiving yards with 10,783 and 66 touchdowns.
“Whether you have a big role, small role, or no role at all . . . that’s awesome,’’ he said. “Everything this year is something that I’ve never been used to. What I’ve had this year is something I can grow accustomed to.’’
When asked if winning a Super Bowl ring would wipe away whatever frustration he experienced in his worst season (statistically speaking) as a professional, Ochocinco bowed his head and softly replied, “Nah.’’
Asked why, Ochocinco said, “I don’t know. It just wouldn’t.’’
In New England, Ochocinco not only struggled to acclimate himself to his new surroundings - which he initially described as “heaven’’ - but he had to subjugate his colorful personality for the good of the team.
“It hasn’t been tough, it’s just football,’’ he said. “It was just one abnormal year. It doesn’t negate all those years of success.’’
But he expressed no regret about his decision to leave Cincinnati, where he was a featured playmaker, to come to Foxborough, where he was expected to fit into a system in which Tom Brady favors the open receiver.
“How has Chad handled a lesser role?’’ Brady said, repeating a question posed to him. “Chad has handled everything very professionally this year.
“He’s come to work every day. He’s worked extremely hard. He’s wanted to be a part of it, and hopefully he does feel a part of it. He’s certainly a big reason why we’re here.
“He’s going to go out there this weekend and hopefully put together a great game also.’’
But that assumes Ochocinco will be active for the game.
Asked if the availability of injured tight end Rob Gronkowski would affect his role Sunday, Ochocinco shrugged.
“I don’t know,’’ he said. “I have no control of that, either.’’
The only thing Ochocinco could control was how he handled this rough patch in his career.
“You always want to play,’’ said Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jaguars running back who was on hand as the new CEO and owner of Ochocinco Network News, which he renamed MJDTV after purchasing it from Ochocinco for the pricey sum of $3.
“That’s a tough thing coming from being a starter,’’ said Jones-Drew. “But I thought he did a great job with the media.
“It’s tough. He’s a playmaker. You come from a place where the team kind of needs you to a place where you have to fit into their system. But he’s done it the right way.
“He hasn’t complained. He’s bit his tongue and he’s just gone back to work, so that’s what a true professional is.
“Everybody can be a professional when things are going great for them and they’re winning and they’re getting the ball. But a true professional is when you hit some adversity and how you react to it. So I think he’s done a good job with it.’’
Said Ochocinco, “I’ve done everything I’ve been asked to do on and off the field. When my number’s been called, I’ve done my best to make those plays. Other than that, I’m part of the team and everybody can look at it from an individual standpoint.
“If I were to become an individual, then you’d kill me for that,’’ he added, a bit testily. “Now I try the other way, you kill me for that. So there’s no real happy medium.
“So I’m just enjoying it, taking it in, listening to everything everybody has to say, reading everything everybody has to write.
“I taking it all in like I always do, and I’m going to have fun come Sunday. That’s it.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.