Ochocinco far from boisterous at minicamp
DAVIE, Fla. — Miami Dolphins wide receiver Chad Ochocinco spoke for about one minute and 52 seconds on Tuesday. That was all the time he needed to prove himself enigmatic.
Teammates described Ochocinco, recently jettisoned from New England, as funny, hard-working and a positive influence. Quarterback David Garrard said players will be "more upbeat" with Ochocinco around.
But after Tuesday's minicamp practice, his first with Miami, Ochocinco sounded like a riddle wrapped inside a mystery. This guy used to be one of the NFL's most dynamic personalities. Now his personality was flat-lining. Something seemed to be missing.
"For me, it's about me getting back to the basics, going back to the root of how it all started," the Miami native said. "Not as far as playing at home in Miami, but as far as my game goes.
"Getting back to what we're all used to seeing, the basic fundamentals of how I became what I am. I think I kind of lost that, and I'm looking to go back to Chad Johnson and just make it live again."
(That's 'live,' as in, rhymes with 'thrive.')
"That's about it," he said. "I really don't have much else to say. If any of you guys have any other questions, I've pretty much covered everything there is to talk about. I love you, and enjoy the show."
And with that, he was gone.
No one knew quite what to make of things. Especially puzzling was the part where he referred to himself in the third person, and by his birth name, Chad Johnson.
It's a comment that begs for clarification, but there was no chance. Ochocinco, the six-time Pro Bowl selection, walked away.
And then there was that "Brokeback Mountain" reference.
Yes, Ochocinco made a cryptic reference to Miami's new coaching staff "developing 'Brokeback Mountain' chemistry with the players."
Some members of the assembled media laughed nervously. Others kept a straight face. We all knew it was merely a joke about new coaches getting to know their players, nothing more. But there was no comedic pause. Ochocinco just kept talking. He was almost robotic. Not a big deal, just a bit odd.
For the record, Ochocinco, the longtime Cincinnati Bengals standout, seemed to say he has no ego. He said he doesn't care about being classified as the Dolphins' No. 1 wide receiver.
Asked whether he could become the No. 1, rising above a crew that includes Brian Hartline, Davone Bess and Legedu Naanee, Ochocinco said, "I was never good at math, so I'm not good with numbers, either."
Ochocinco didn't leave a bad impression, nothing close. In fact, he was polite and mild-mannered, almost engaging, and he came across as incredibly focused and driven. You got the impression this season is about trying to amends, or at the very least making things right — or maybe making things the way they used to be.
Ochocinco, the 34-year-old 12th-year pro, by his tone and mannerism, seemed to be saying he knows things are dire. He was once perhaps the most feared wide receiver in the NFL. Now he's bordering on irrelevance. He seems determined.
His Dolphins teammates? They seem to love Ochocinco already. Cornerback Sean Smith and quarterback Matt Moore joined Garrard in cracking a smile when talking about him.
"Well, he's an Oregon State Beaver, so he can't be a bad guy," said Moore, who, as you might figure, is a fellow Oregon State alum.
Smith, who, by the way, was wearing a microphone for the HBO show "Hard Knocks," said the defensive backs have already started woofing back and forth with Ochocinco. They love his personality.
"If anything, we started talking to him before he did us," Smith said. "We have a couple of guys who knew Chad personally before he came here, so it's all fun."
And with teammates, "Fun" seems to be Ochocinco's middle name.
"I was just telling him a few seconds ago he brings a different level of energy out here," Garrard said. "He's very charismatic, says whatever comes to his mind and usually it's pretty funny."
Give us an example.
"I just told him it looks like he still can jump because he went up and got a couple of balls today," Garrard began. "And he said, ‘What do you mean still can jump? I always could jump.'"
"It's good to have those kinds of guys on the team that can make things a little looser," he said.
New England never saw this side of Ochocinco, a man who once had six consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons. He only had 15 catches for 276 yards and one touchdown for the Patriots last season. He rarely seemed happy.
You get the feeling he badly wants to reconcile his Chad Ochocinco side with his Chad Johnson side.
And if that happens, stand back, because the good times are gonna roll, on and off the field. If not, well, it could be another lost year for Ochocinco.