|A closer look at the Patriots’ decision to release Chad Ochocinco||06.07.12 at 4:42 pm ET|
All you really needed to know about Chad Ochocinco’s time with the Patriots could be summed up in an OTA session late last month. New England’s first-team offense broke the huddle, and Ochocinco went to the line of scrimmage … only to be redirected to where he needed to be by teammate Deion Branch. Even after spending nearly a year in the system, the 34-year-old Ochocinco still had issues with the New England offense.
Despite a professed desire to play for Bill Belichick and alongside Tom Brady that went back several years, Chad Ochocinco never seemed to fit with the Patriots. There were some interesting moments, including a touchdown catch against the Broncos and a 53-yard surprise reception against the Jets in November, but those were few and far between. Instead, there was talk of his inability to learn the playbook, and speculation as to why New England had someone on the roster who was making a base salary of $6 million who had slipped so far down the depth chart that Tiquan Underwood was taking snaps from him.
In the end, the Ochocinco experiment — which resulted in 15 catches, 276 yards, one touchdown — just never seemed to coalesce with the Patriots. As a new receiver, it’s not so much about learning the playbook and assimilating to the “Patriots’ Way.” Instead, it’s about gaining the trust of the quarterback, and that never really happened. (Watching newcomer Brandon Lloyd work with Brady in the three OTA sessions the media has had access to, it’s clear Lloyd already has far more of a rapport with Brady than Ocho ever did.)
It’s not complicated: Listen to Jabar Gaffney, who spoke to the media Thursday, on the subject of working with Brady. “We have a great relationship, on and off the field,” Gaffney said. “On the field, we just have that rapport with each other and he knows where I’m going to be and I know he’s going to put it right there. I have all the confidence in him, he has all the confidence in me. That’s a great thing.” It was clear that as the 2011 season went on, there was none of that trust between Brady and Ochocinco. In truth, there were several moments late in the year where Ochocinco was open, but the quarterback went in another direction.
Ochocinco will get a job somewhere else for several reasons, not the least of which is that he remains a masterful self-promoter — even in the twilight of his career, few athletes can still move the needle like Ochocinco. But history will show that in the end, the receiver may have wasted his last best opportunity to win a championship.
|Notes from Patriots’ Thursday OTA session||at 1:42 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots wrapped up a Thursday afternoon OTA session that ran for nearly two hours on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. The workout, which was conducted in sweats, shorts, T-shirts and helmets, was another relatively efficient outing underneath occasionally overcast skies. Here are a few quick notes.
The following players were not spotted for the duration of the session: offensive lineman Brian Waters, defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick, tight end Aaron Hernandez, wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, tight end Daniel Fells and defensive lineman Myron Pryor. (As he has done throughout the spring, injured rookie offensive lineman Markus Zusevics stood to the side as the offensive linemen went through their drills.)
According to a source, Ochocinco was at the Gillette Stadium facility on Thursday, but he left before the start of the session.
The following players were on the field but stretched and drilled off to the side, occasionally jumping in for sprints but mostly workout with trainers: defensive back/special teamer Matthew Slater, linebacker Brandon Spikes, linebacker Tracy White, offensive lineman Logan Mankins, offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer and tight end Rob Gronkowski.
With no Hernandez, Gronkowski or Fells, newcomer Bo Scaife got a lot of time in with the offense. (Scaife appeared to be struggling with fatigue throughout practice — maybe this was because he and Alex Silvestro took almost every rep throughout the session.) Compounding matters was the fact that rookie tight end Brad Herman went down with what appeared to be a left foot or ankle injury at the start of practice and had to be carted off.
It was a rough session for the offense, which struggled for much of the practice, so much so that coach Bill Belichick forced them to run two sets of penalty laps during the 11-on-11 sessions — the entire offense ran one for the first infraction and then had to run two the second time around. (This is where Scaife appeared to struggle.) Quarterback Tom Brady also popped off, sounding disgusted about things.
In 7-on-7s, Belichick shook things up a bit for the quarterbacks when he was spotted tossing a blocking pad at them as they dropped back to pass. (He also occasionally stood where the defensive linemen would be and held the pad in the air to try to create another obstacle.) In those drills, Julian Edelman caught a nice deep ball from Brady, which was followed by a nice grab from Wes Welker.
More offensive notes: Keeping in mind that we’re still more than three months away from the regular-season opener, second-year running back Shane Vereen worked with the No, 1 offense in a hurry-up offensive set. … The offense appeared to get some red zone work in, and Brandon Lloyd made a nice pair of catches at the back of the end zone. Lloyd also had a nice catch on a Brady pass over Devin McCourty. With the understanding that it’s still insanely early, it’s hard not to be impressed with Lloyd, even at this stage of the spring. He looks polished and poised and not at all overwhelmed with the prospect of working in the New England offense with Brady. … Robert Gallery continued to get in a lot of work at left guard with what was a reasonable facsimile of New England’s starting offensive line. It will be interesting to see what happens to him when Mankins is back at full strength.
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|Chad Ochocinco laments stolen Starbucks card||05.24.12 at 3:26 pm ET|
Patriots wide receiver Chad Ochocinco — a well-known user of Twitter — took to the social media website on Wednesday afternoon to report that his SUV was broken into and his wallet stolen.
In a two-minute and rather emotional video, Ochocinco said that his driver’s license and two credit cards were stolen, but he was more concerned of something else that he left in his wallet.
“What I’m pissed about is these [expletives] took my Starbucks card,” Ochocinco said from the driver’s seat of his SUV. “Not just any Starbucks card, I earned the gold card. You know how many coffees I’ve had to drink and lemon loafs I’ve had to purchase to get to that gold card? I had $220 left on my Starbucks card. Not just any Starbucks card, but a gold Starbucks card.”
One of Ochocinco’s Twitter followers said their mother had found his wallet in Providence. It contained his driver’s license and two credit cards, but not his gold Starbucks card.
Fortunately for Ochocinco, Starbucks reached out to him via Twitter late Wednesday afternoon and agreed to replace his gold card.
|Five years later, Donte Stallworth ready for his second stint in New England||05.15.12 at 1:45 pm ET|
FOXBORO — A little older and a little wiser, wide receiver Donte Stallworth is ready for his second act with the Patriots.
The well-traveled Stallworth, who spent the 2007 season in New England before leaving as a free agent, jumped at the opportunity to return to the Patriots, signing a one-year deal as a free agent in March. It was a chance to not only go back to the scene of some of his greatest professional success, but to do so with an increased wisdom, one he confessed he didn’t necessarily have in his first go-round with New England.
“I’m a lot more mature now than I was then,” Stallworth said Tuesday during a break between workouts at Gillette Stadium. “I feel like I’m playing better. I’m in a better place mentally, physically and I just felt like at that time I was still trying to mature and grow into a professional athlete. I feel like I’m a lot further down the road than I was last time.
“Back then, I was really more relying on my talent,” said the 6-foot, 220-pounder. “Now that I’m going into my 10th year, I think I run better routes now and understand different coverages and what teams are trying to do.”
The 31-year-old Stallworth, who had 46 catches for 697 yards and three touchdowns with the Patriots in 2007, said a large portion of that increased off-field maturity is because of what he went through in 2009 when he was charged with DUI manslaughter following an accident in Florida. He spent time in jail, and was suspended for the duration of the 2009 season.
“The year I was out and just sitting around and watching my teammates play and watching my friends play, it was not a good feeling,” Stallworth said. “It’s the same, even when you’re hurt. Guys never want to miss games. Anytime you miss something that you appreciate in life or that you love in life, if you have an opportunity to get it back, you always have a better appreciate for it next time.”
Stallworth said that after spending time with the Browns (2008), Ravens (2010) and Redskins (2011), walking back into the New England locker room was an “interesting” experience.
“It was a little weird feeling. It was kind of surreal,” he said. “But honestly, I think it took about a week or so to get adjusted and to really realize that, hey, I really am back; it’s not just a dream. It’s been good being back and seeing a lot of the same, familiar faces — friendly faces. So it’s been good. It’s been five years, but not much has changed other than all the restaurants and stuff around here. That’s a big difference.”
Stallworth enters a crowded field at wide receiver — the Patriots have loaded up this offseason at a position they were already pretty well stocked coming off the 2011 season. Stallworth, Jabar Gaffney, Anthony Gonzalez and Brandon Lloyd join a group that includes Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Julian Edelman, Britt Davis, Matthew Slater and Chad Ochocinco.
“It’s going to be good competition; we’re all friends, we all have known each other for awhile and respected each other’s games, so we’re going to make each other better,” Stallworth said. “We’ve been doing that now, with the workouts and really having fun, and the real fun gets to start on Monday when we start practicing. Who knows how it will play out, but I’m feeling good; I’m feeling healthy.”
Here are some more highlights of Stallworth’s Q&A with the media:
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|Jonathan Fanene talks about being reunited with Chad Ochocinco in New England||05.01.12 at 3:55 pm ET|
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:
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|Wes Welker on the franchise tag: ‘It’s a lot of money. How can you ever be upset about that?’||04.12.12 at 10:06 pm ET|
Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker made an appearance on the NFL Network’s “Total Access” Thursday night and addressed a variety of topics, including the franchise tags, whether or not he’ll attend the upcoming organized team activities and the struggles of Chad Ochocinco last season. Here are a few quick highlights:
On the franchise tag: “It’s a lot of money. How can you ever be upset about that? It’s more than half of what my last contract was over five years. One year — $9.5 (million) over one year? It’s not a bad deal. I’m not worried about it.”
On if he will attend OTAs: “Still looking to try and decide on that. I’m in no rush. We’ll figure it out. As far as me and my agents, we’re on the same page with everything. Just looking to move forward and looking forward to the 2012 season.”
On his highly discussed drop in the late moments of the Super Bowl: “They’re all tough. Anytime you don’t execute the way you want to in a critical game like that, every play is tough. It’s definitely one of the deals that you just learn from and hopefully execute the next chance you get.”
On why Chad Ochocinco struggled last year: “We were in a lockout. You come in and you’ve been a part of one offense for the past 10 years. You come into a completely new offense and didn’t have time in the offseason to go ever and didn’t have time in the offseason to go over everything and be on top of everything. I think this was just a little bit different for him. Being in that same system, everything is called differently. I think this year will be a lot of different as far as being able to hear the play call and not think, ‘This is where I have to lineup’ and be able to think, ‘This is my route, this what I’ve got to do, this is how I’m going to get open.’ It just takes time and I think there’s just a big learning curve, especially coming here to the Patriots. It’s a lot more complex.”
|Bill Belichick speaks about wide receivers, roster moves at coaches breakfast||03.27.12 at 11:37 am ET|
Patriots coach Bill Belichick‘s notoriously terse relationship with the media has been well-documented, so it was not much of a surprise when last year he was a no-show for the coaches breakfast at the NFL owners meetings. This year, however, the breakfast seemed to be more his cup of tea, as Belichick made an appearance and fielded questions from the media for about 45 minutes. Still, Belichick spoke mostly in generalities during his session with reporters.
Belichick refused to get specific when talking about expectations for wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, who reportedly restructured his contract so that he will earn $1 million in 2012 rather than $3 million.
“I think I have the same expectations for all our players, it doesn’t make a difference who they are or what year they are in — come in, work hard, be prepared, go out there and compete on the field,” Belichick told the assembled media. “There is no difference for any player – first year, second year, 10th year.”
Ochocinco recorded 15 catches for 276 yards and a touchdown in his first season with New England. Those totals were the lowest by any of the team’s regular receivers, and the Patriots largely targeted receivers other than Ochocinco in most games. In the offseason, New England appears to have continued to look away from Ochocinco, as it signed receivers Brandon Lloyd, Donte’ Stallworth and Anthony Gonzalez in addition to re-signing Deion Branch for another year.
“You always try to have competition at every position,” Belichick said. “We’ve always had about that many receivers going to camp — 10, 11, somewhere in there — [and] we’ll see what the roster limit ends up being this year.”
Belichick had no update on the status of Wes Welker, whom the Patriots used a franchise tag on but have yet to negotiate a contract with. Belichick said he did not know if Welker will participate in offseason activities.
When asked about the potential for offensive linesman Matt Light‘s retirement, Belichick refused to speculate.
“If we have any announcements to make on any players, we’ll make them when appropriate,” Belichick said.
Belichick offered a brief glimpse into his thoughts on the league’s suspension of Saints coach Sean Payton. Patriots beat writer Ian Rapoport tweeted: Bill Belichick called the situation surrounding Sean Payton “unfortunate” and said the league “did what it did.”
Belichick also flashed his sense of humor. According to the Patriots Twitter account, when a reporter began a question about character by asking “How much do you weigh,” Belichick quickly responded by saying “too much.”
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