The New England Patriots released receiver Chad Ochocinco on Thursday, cutting loose the six-time Pro Bowl selection after one season in which he was more active on Twitter than on the field.
”Thoroughly enjoyed the oppurtunity to play for the ‘Patriot’ organization… fans were … wicked awesome, I wish all of you the best,” he tweeted at about the same time the team was announcing he had been released.
”I’m healthy n living life, I’ll be fine,” he wrote on Twitter, where he had changed his job description to ”UNEMPLOYED BLACK GUY” and posed a photo of himself sitting on a suitcase at the airport, hitchhiking.
Ochocinco, 34, played in 15 games in his only season with the Patriots, starting three and catching 15 passes for 276 yards. He caught one pass in the Super Bowl as New England lost 21-17 to the New York Giants.
His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said he is ”in the process of gauging interest from potential teams.”
During the playoffs, Patriots coach Bill Belichick described Ochocinco as a hard worker who ”made a very good effort to do everything we’ve asked him to do on and off the field.”
Ochocinco said the shift from star receiver to barely contributing role player was a struggle. But it paid off with his first trip to the Super Bowl — as a player, not as a gadfly asking questions on media day to those actually participating in the game.
”I’m happy, but the competitive side of me is (angry). Does that make sense?” he said before the team left for Indianapolis. ”I handled myself with the utmost professionalism. I busted my (butt), didn’t pout. That’s what I do: ‘Give me the rock!’ But I didn’t do what people thought I would do. Even I thought I was going to do it.”
Drafted in the second round by Cincinnati from Oregon State, Ochocinco spent 10 seasons with the Bengals and reached the Pro Bowl five straight years from 2003-07 and again in ’09. He was the first player in NFL history to lead the conference in receiving four consecutive years.
But Ochocinco — who changed his name from Chad Johnson as a nod to his uniform number, 85 — was perhaps better known for his antics that sometimes annoyed his teammates, coaches and even commissioner Roger Goodell, whom he called ”Dad.” He predicted victories, sent gifts to opposing locker rooms and invited fans to help him think up new end zone antics.
His touchdown celebrations — using a pylon as a golf club, performing CPR on the football, doing a jig, donning a Hall of Fame jacket — led to repeated fines and an NFL crackdown. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis grew so frustrated that he once called him ”Ocho Psycho.”
Ochocinco also appeared as a contestant on ”Dancing With the Stars” and hosted a cable dating show. Under the guise of the online Ochocinco News Network, he attended the Super Bowl as a reporter for two years, asking questions of the teams during media sessions and even grilling Goodell last year on the prospects of avoiding a lockout.
Last month, he posted online an open letter to Goodell to support the commissioner in the wake of Junior Seau’s suicide, writing ”no one is showing any support, I figured I would be the first.”
In his career, Ochocinco has caught 766 passes for 11,059 yards and 67 touchdowns.