Chad Ochocinco hauls in a pass during Tuesday's mandatory minicamp. (AP photo)
While Chad Ochocinco entertained the media on subjects ranging from birth control to reality TV to boxing in his annual comeback day on Tuesday, Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski continued to guide his new passing game into another part of the offseason at the start of the three-day mandatory minicamp.
After The Ocho provided a shot of energy and rookie wide receiver Dez Briscoe came out of physical rehab to provide a new look, Bratkowski thought the Bengals were on the right track after Tuesday's second practice.
"I thought the second time through the installation helped the new guys and the new guys took a step today," Bratkowski said.
They took it with limited input from The Ocho after Bratkowski made the determination that Dancing With The Stars and his dating show didn't leave much time for football.
"You can tell he hasn't done a lot of football, but he's in pretty good shape," Bratkowski said. "But there's a big difference between football as a receiver, running routes, sticking your foot in the ground and putting all that pressure on your joints. You can tell he hasn't been doing a lot of route running."
But this appears to be another year where the Bengals are breathing a sigh of relief for the aging receiver. Despite his 32 years, Ochocinco looked fast, flexible and quick enough off the line to give DBs problems. He says once he comes back from Las Vegas and working with former boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr., he'll have his football wind back.
"It's the quickness, the hand-eye coordination," Ochocinco said. "My feet aren't going anywhere. The cardio boxing gives me, especially working out with him, will shot me up there. I'll come back in stupid shape."
There seems to be more of a debate on just how much Bratkowski has changed the pass offense. Quarterback Carson Palmer says it's the most he's ever seen but Bratkowski says that doesn't mean wholesale changes.
"What we did in the run game last year is about equal to the pass game this year," Bratkowski said. "There's a lot of carryover. There's still a lot of things we're doing that we did last year that we made additions. We've changed some of the ways we call things to try and simplify it."
The Ocho shrugged when it came to the playbook.
"There are little tweaks in there every year," he said. "But the tweaks aren't enough to where I'm going to be sitting there looking at it. It's common sense, like it always is."
What is different for Bratkowski is his personnel. He says he's got more options than last year, headed by rookie tight end Jermaine Gresham, a guy that has caught The Ocho's attention.
"He adds something different to our tight ends area," Ochocinco said. "What he did at Oklahoma, if he's able to do that here, we'll be that much better."
Bratkowski also likes another rookie, and it looks like he's got third-rounder Jordan Shipley rotating in the slot with third-year receiver Andre Caldwell. He likes the combination of Shipley's natural comfort inside and Caldwell's growing confidence at the position.
And then there's Briscoe, the sixth-rounder shelved for a month with a hamstring problem suffered in rookie camp, who began his comeback only last week but Bratkowski thought he looked good despite the absence. "He's very technically sound route-runner," Bratkowski said.
Briscoe, only 20, is a reminder just how long The Ocho has been here catching balls and running routes. He says he became a Bengals fan when he was in junior high and heard The Ocho guarantee a win over the undefeated Chiefs. On Tuesday, Briscoe finally met the guarantor.
"I knew he wasn't going to be arrogant. He was the way I thought he'd be," Briscoe said. "He came up to me and helped me out with some of my routes."
And then there is cornerback Adam Jones, a victim of The Ocho's heroics when he was a rookie in 2005 in Tennessee. With the Bengals trailing the Titans, 20-17, late in the game, Ochocinco got past Jones twice, one for a 34-yard pass interference call and one for the winning 15-yard touchdown catch despite another flag.
"Chad looked like he always looked; he's always ready to go," Jones said Tuesday. "If anybody is rusty, it's me ... Chad's a good receiver. He looked good. He knows what he has to do to get back where he wants to be ... he's Chad Johnson. He's one of the greatest to play the game. He's just coming back from one of his shows."
But even though Ochocinco has been around so long and caught 40 touchdowns from Palmer, Palmer knows they still need work.
"We've definitely got history together, but I think when you think of the great pass-catchers and quarterbacks over time, it's Marvin Harrison and Peyton Manning," Palmer said. "You know, Steve Young and Jerry Rice and Montana. Even those guys and those combinations have to get their bearings straight with each other. Chad and I missed a couple of plays today, we made some plays today. But it doesn't matter how many years or how many receptions or completions you have, it takes some time to get that rhythm back and that timing back and that feel for body language from a quarterback's perspective. Those are things we're working on. We do have history together, but we still need a lot of work, a lot of time, to keep developing and getting better."
The Ocho thinks the Bengals are going to put on a show when they play the Ravens, even though they traded for a fellow wide receiver from Miami in Anquan Boldin.
"Yeah, he's my homeboy. But Anquan Boldin has to go against the No. 4 defense last year," he said. "Last time I checked, we destroyed them. We added to our (offense) but we still have a better defense."
On Tuesday, it was hard to say where TV ended and football began.
"Dancing was extremely humbling. I had no idea it would be that hard," he said. "The dating show is a great experience. It's something different I've never done before. It lets people see a different aspect of me – how I interact when it comes to dealing with women. It's in a graceful way. It's not normally what you'd see when you see other dating shows. You have to remember – I'm always unpredictable. It's like touching the field on Sunday. You never what the hell I'm going to do. it's the same concept with the show. But it's done the right way."
The Bengals are hoping this is the pilot for a passing show.