LOS ANGELES — For Chad Ochocinco, it’s about getting back to basics.
The longtime Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver, late of the New England Patriots, is working out at West LA College as he tries to get back to who he used to be on the football field and prepares for his first season with the Miami Dolphins.
He’s doing so under the watchful eye of Charles Collins, who is considered to be one of the best coaches of wide receivers in the nation. Collins, better known as Coach C, has the task of trying to get Ochocinco back to playing at the elite level he once did.
“I don’t care what level of sport you’re on: You got to get back to technique,” Collins said. “It’s one thing to coach it, but I think you got to get down to teaching it and breaking habits, cleaning up stuff, eliminating what I call indicators in terms of what they do and what they don’t do as far as route running is concerned. But, really, getting back down to technique and fundamentals and being efficient without wasting steps or time.”
Last season was a struggle for Ochocinco. He recorded career lows with 15 catches for 276 yards and one TD in three starts with the Patriots. It was the second straight season Ochocinco failed to reach the 1,000-yard plateau. (He had 67 catches for 831 yards and four TDs in his last season in Cincinnati.)
“I strayed away from the things that got me to the point where I was, and I got somewhat comfortable because I thought I had the formula,” said Ochocinco, who has seven 1,000-yard seasons in his career. “I got to the point to where I perfected everything, in a sense, and I stopped coming where I came from.
“I’m back on track. I’m back with the person that’s responsible for my success, really, if you want to be honest about it. We’ve been together since ’97, and my entire game is based off of what he’s taught me over the years. And I kind of strayed away from that, being here, getting the work and keeping everything tight.”
The relationship between the two dates back to Ochocinco’s days at Santa Monica College where Collins was his wide receivers coach. Over the years, it has developed into a father-son type of relationship. This summer, Collins has had to reel in the son, reaffirming the importance of the little things.
“A part of that reeling back in is getting back to basics, working on my craft, working on my game and getting back to being one of the dominant receivers that I always was for near a decade,” Ochocinco said. “It don’t take long to lose the basic fundamentals. If you lose the basic fundamentals of the game, playing receiver and some of the things that he taught me to keep an edge on the competition, things like last year happen.
“Regardless of my talent level, you get exposed.”
Added Collins, “I think he’s got that passion back. He’s been away from it.
“He’s back because he really wants to re-establish his place in the league and be one of the best wide receivers in the league, so he knows to do that he has to get back down to the basics and get down to cleaning up and taking care of some things that he wasn’t doing well the last couple of years.”
Ochocinco, a six-time Pro Bowl selection, was released by the Patriots last month and then signed a one-year deal with his hometown Dolphins. He did not work out with Collins the past two offseasons and believes reuniting with the coach will put him back on track to proving he is still a top wideout in the NFL.
“The easy part for me has always been proving everybody wrong, and I do it my way — fun. And it’s going to be another entertaining couple of years,” Ochocinco said. “When I’m here, I’m successful. The Pro Bowl is made right now. One-thousand yard seasons are made right now, not during the season.”