Ochocinco drops act to honor friend, teammate
In those several dozen steps between the field and the locker room,
Chad Ochocinco seemed to undergo a transformation, from persona to
person. By the time he reached the visitors’ quarters at
Qualcomm Stadium, the NFL’s master of calculated exuberance
was solemn, mournful and alone. His eyes were red-rimmed and moist.
No, it wasn’t part of the act. The Cincinnati Bengals
had just lost to the Chargers on a field goal with three seconds
left — a heartbreaking defeat with playoff position on the
line. But Ochocinco realized all too well the difficult part had
There would be a break in the game-planning and the meetings.
The distractions would be fewer. Three days after the death of his
friend, fellow Bengals receiver Chris “Slim” Henry,
he’d finally be alone with his thoughts. On Tuesday, the team
travels to New Orleans for the funeral.
“Stay busy,” he said. “Stay busy as much as
I can. That’s all I can do. The more active I am, the easier
it is to keep it off my mind. The flight going home is going to
bother me. The funeral service is going to bother me. Any time
it’s quiet and you have time to think, it’s going to
Earlier in the week, Ochocinco had vowed to wear his
friend’s No. 15 jersey. The league would fine him, of course,
but the Players Association announced that it would reimburse him
the amount of the levy. Still, in uncharacteristically wise
fashion, the Bengals receiver backed off — not just for his
own sake, but for that of decorum. Chad Ochocinco has made a
vocation of calling attention to himself, but even he had to
acknowledge this wasn’t the time for it.
“Everybody agrees to mourn in a different way,”
he said. “My way would’ve been out there wearing that
It wasn’t that he objects to being called a
self-promoter. It’s that he didn’t want the accusations
to diminish the memory of his friend.
“That’s when I had to backtrack and think,”
he said. “Slim wouldn’t want that. He’d want me
to go out there and play for him. So today, I went out there and
played with an extra set of hands, an extra set of legs and an
As it happened, he honored his fallen friend with a very good
game, even if it was in defeat. Early in the second quarter, he
dusted Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromatrie for a
49-yard-touchdown. His end-zone celebration, if that’s what
you can call it, was remarkably subdued — briefly pointing
upward before taking a knee.
“I just kept saying it over and over: 85 and 15,”
said Ochocinco. “There’s a hundred ways for us to be
great. It was a little thing we used to say all the time.”
Later, early in the fourth quarter, he took a Carson Palmer
screen pass, faked safety Kevin Ellison all but out of his cleats,
and cut across the field for 26 yards.
“You want to know why I reversed field?” he
asked. “… I was reading the defense and I was hoping it
would be (Quentin) Jammer. Jammer would’ve been a little
easier person to make a move on. But freaking Shawne Merriman was
following me … Shawne’s presence made me reverse the entire
field. That’s all there was.”
Whatever the case, it was a fine run that went to the San
Diego 7-yard line. Two plays later, Palmer found Laveranues Coles
in the end zone.
The Chargers were still up, 24-21. But you thought it was
only a matter of time before Cincinnati took the lead — and
The Bengals last possession did nothing to dissuade that
impression. It was a methodical drive, with Palmer passing short to
his tight end and running back Cedric Benson. Despite penalties and
a costly fumble that cost them 20 yards, they still came away with
a game-tying field goal.
“We had some good momentum,” said the tight end,
J.P. Foschi. “I thought we were going to win.”
He wasn’t alone. You could anticipate the conclusion:
The Bengals shaking off their grief to win a big game on the road.
If it wasn’t a storybook ending, that’s only because
Chris Henry — who died falling out of the bed of a truck
after a domestic incident with his fiancée —
didn’t live a storybook life.
In the end, it was enough for the principals to acquit
themselves well. The Chargers and the Bengals put on a very good
game. As far as Chris Henry is concerned, that’s sufficient
After the field goal, given 54 seconds to work with, Philip
Rivers brought San Diego to the Cincinnati 34. Nate Kaeding hit a
52-yard field goal. It hurt a little, said Ochocinco, who quickly
reconsidered and said it hurt a lot. Reading more into a football
game is fraught with peril. Ochocinco, now making his way to the
team bus, had come to learn this the hard way.