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Jonathan Fanene talks about being reunited with Chad Ochocinco in New England

05.01.12 at 3:55 pm ET
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New Patriots defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene meets the media Tuesday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. (WEEI.com photo)

FOXBORO — Chad Ochocinco, head of the New England Welcome Wagon?

When new Patriots’ defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene signed a three-year deal with the Patriots in March — like any new employee — he went looking for some familiar faces at his new place of employment. That’s what led him to former Bengals teammate Ochocinco. The two were together for six seasons in Cincinnati, and it’s clear Fanene still has a soft spot for the wide receiver.

“Ocho is a good guy, a good leader,” the soft-spoken Fanene said Tuesday afternoon in a break between workouts at Gillette Stadium. “When I came into Cincinnati, he really took me under his arm and taught me the game out there.

“I talked to him a little bit last week,” Fanene added. “He’s just trying to put me on the game, let me know what’s going on out here. This is not Cincinnati. This is not a rookie-league team that you should play. This is real business now. I’m trying to get my two feet in and work.”

Was he surprised that Ochocinco struggled in his first season with the Patriots?

“I’ll be honest — yeah. I really didn’t hear a lot of his name last year on any of the games,” he said. “I believe there’s a reason why: He came in right in the middle of training camp and tried to learn the system, tried to get used to the culture out here. I believe he’s going to come back hard this year, do his job and do the best he can do to help the team.”

Fanene certainly has more of an opportunity to get to know his surroundings than Ochocinco did. The native of American Samoa signed a three-year deal with the Patriots in March. A 6-foot-4, 292-pounder out of Utah who has played seven seasons in the NFL (all with Cincinnati), the 30-year-old had his best season in 2009 when he started 10 games and finished with 36 tackles (18 solo) with six sacks and an interception.

Fanene said he “had a chance” to make some other free agent visits, but he was “excited” when he got the call from Bill Belichick and the Patriots in the first week of free agency.

“There’s a lot of good things out here,” he said. “There’s a winning franchise, first of all, and it’s a blessing to be here and to be a part of the Patriots. I told myself I just want to do the best I can do out here so we can win.

“I guess they watched film on me, and I guess [they saw] what they need to build up the pressure or the pass rush up here,” he added.

And in his first series of offseason workouts, it’s pretty much lived up to expectations. Fanene said there are a lot of differences between playing in New England and in Cincinnati.

“I see guys focused more, not just in the workout, but everything we do out here is more like a team effort,” he said. “Guys really welcomed me inside the locker room. It’s not about all of the talking, the media, TV stuff, but it’s more hardworking and just do your job.”

He does have some positional versatility along the defensive front, but isn’t worried about fitting into a scheme just yet.

“Right now, we just started coaching sessions. I can give you more information about that when we get to OTAs and minicamp,” he said. “But like I said, they see something on film that they like, so they brought me out here for a reason. I’m just going to do the best I can do out there.

“Whatever they tell me [to do]. If they tell me to play nose, I’ll play nose, three-technique, six-, seven-, outside end, special teams. I’m doing it.”

Here are a few other highlights from the Q&A:

Why do you think so many NFL players come from Samoa? “I really don’t know. When I was in high school, I really didn’t think that i was going to be in the NFL until I graduated. I just had a chance to come out here and continue on and continue to play football. It was a blessing.”

You were a quarterback  in high school? “Yeah, it was our offense. It was pretty much an option, spread offense. I was a receiver but then they had me playing quarterback, so I could just move around and shift around and make plays with the scheme that we ran.”

You suffered an injury here in New England in 2010 that eventually left you on injured reserve the rest of the year. Take us through that. “Do I really have to say? (laughs) I remember it was like the third series and I was going against Matt Light. And when I came around the corner, I just felt something strain. I knew something was wrong. I just stopped and came out.”

That’s ironic now you’re here. “It’s funny. I never expected to be here. Like I said, I’m going to do the best I can do to help out and win games this year.”

When Bill contacted you, what did he say he wanted from you? “Just do my job.”

Did he tell you what your job would be? “I’ll let you know after minicamp (laughs).”

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