Chad Ocho Cinco says not only has he been open on every play this year, but he's been so open on some of them that he could have pulled off a few jumping jacks.
"There's a reason why my season has gone this way; it was no secret," he said before Wednesday's practice. "I'm very frustrated, but I've been quiet."
But The Ocho wasn't very quiet in his first media appearance since The Words in The Burg resulted in his deactivation for last Thursday's game in Pittsburgh after what he called "a little altercation" in the offense's meeting the night before the game.
But he fueled some fire with five games left in this season.
"I feel we can win but there are certain things we need too," he said, declining to name them.
During the offseason trade rants, he occasionally developed a "the defense is awful" riff, but he may be talking about the offense now because on Wednesday he said about the defense, "Those (guys) are balling. I don't know (what's wrong)."
He hasn't caught a ball longer than 19 yards since the opener and is averaging just 35 yards per game after seven previous seasons of 35 career catches of at least 40 yards, but Ocho Cinco said Wednesday, "The (separated) shoulder is not a problem. The ankle is not a problem. I've got myself back to my level of play where it should be. I don't want to hear the excuses. 'Oh, you're hurt. You missed training camp.' My 50 percent is better than half the league."
And, "I don't care what you do. I'm always open," he said. "I swear to God something ain't right."
Offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski, who stood on the table back in 2001 to draft Ocho Cinco and chose not to table his tardiness in the celebrated meeting, has been through a lot with The Ocho. Like all 600 catches. So Wednesday's declaration that Ocho Cinco has been open all year didn't exactly phaze him.
"Every receiver thinks they're open," Bratkowski said. "When they run a route, most of them when they look back at the quarterback lose sight where the guy is around you. If you don't (see him), then you feel like you're open. Most (receivers do)."
Ocho Cinco says he "doesn't buy" the excuses of injuries and no training camp. But Bratkowski sees them as factors.
"He started behind the 8-ball when he missed the spring and the start of training camp," said Bratkowski, of the ankle scope that was a fallout of what amounted to a holdout of the voluntary workouts. "Then he hurt the shoulder (Aug. 23) and that didn't help.
"He's been open and the ball hasn't got to him. And there are other times he hasn't been open. At times, the protection has been an issue and he's been open. But the quarterback can't throw off his back. It's a combination of things. The only thing you do is ask everybody to be accountable for what they do.The O-line has to be accountable, the backs and tight ends in pass protection, and the receiver has to be accountable. He has to be right because when the protection is there, when the coverage you want for that particular player to get the ball is there, you don't want to miss opportunities."
The longest ball to a wide receiver this season has been a couple of 26-yarders to T.J. Houshmandzadeh and The Ocho shook his head.
"We've had no big plays this year," he said. "You can't blame it on injuries. Every team has injuries. They still manage to find ways to make explosive plays. New England changed quarterbacks and nothing's changed. I don't know what the answer is."
Charles Collins, a Bengals offensive assistant who has coached Ocho even longer than Bratkowski in an association that dates to junior college, said last week after the incident that Ocho Cinco has to get back to the basics and focus that made him a five-time Pro Bowler and four-time AFC yardage champion.
"There are some technical things, (but) it boils down to combination; it's everything," Bratkowski said. "There were times, like any receiver, where there are routes they run that aren't their best routes. Even in his good years when he was putting up huge numbers, I can point out time and time again he missed opportunities because he was a little undisciplined in his routes. But things were going good, we were converting first downs, and the protections were better and we got more opportunities. The numbers still end up big, but they could have been bigger. But you could say the same thing about most receivers. Like anything else, they have good plays, they have bad plays."
But The Ocho's frustrations go beyond the field. Bengals president Mike Brown may not have gone for his scorched earth policy of the offseason, but Ocho made clear he has the same feelings.
"To come back and say everything's OK, it's not OK," he said. "The things I felt back then are still the same. Being here and being a player and being the only player that sort of ... voices his opinion about what's going on and what's right and wrong, after doing so for such a long period, I couldn't come back with the same spirit of 'Here we go, let's go.' The same Chad: Fiery.
"I came in quiet and focused. I tried not to be a distraction the entire year. I've done that very well until the little altercation when I left the meeting."
Asked if he wants to be here until 2010, the season before an option can be exercised, he said, "I have no choice."
But he vows it will be a quiet offseason.
"I'll be in London, I'll be in Africa the entire offseason," Ocho Cinco said. "You won't have a chance to hear my mouth unless it's coming from all the way over there."
The Ocho downplayed the incident that reportedly revolved around him talking back to Bratkowski in front of head coach Marvin Lewis.
"My dad deactivated me; punishment for his son," and wasn't sure that Lewis had reinstated him.
But Lewis said he's also moved past the deactivation and that he's ready to go. If:
"If he's healthy and goes through the week and we feel like he gives us an opportunity," Lewis said. "And he continues to do things correctly as he has in the past than he ought to play Sunday."
Ocho keeps insisting he has a good relationship with Lewis.
"I talked to Coach Lewis the entire time," The Ocho said. "When he handed it down, I talked to him on the way to the plane, I talked to him on the plane, I talked to him when I landed. I kept texting him back and forth. It is what it is. That's the only news we have to talk about. It's been the biggest news all year. I'm sure it's not that important.
"It's just good to be back. Unfortunately on my part I let my coaches down and my teammates down."
Although Lewis didn't suspend him, The Ocho thinks he may have fined him his entire game check, which would be in the $180,000 range.
"The money doesn't really matter," he said. "It's the playing time that hurts."
He said his knee hurt enough from practice last Tuesday that he's not even sure he could have played last Thursday. The deactivation stopped a 113-game streak that started his rookie year following a broken clavicle.
"The only time I've missed a game is when I had surgery," said Ocho, who hasn't had an MRI. "I hope whatever this is I don't need surgery."
But he started out practicing in the full go Wednesday afternoon and didn't appear on the injury report.
And he says he won't appear Thanksgiving, either. He says it's going to be another McDonald's Turkey Day. But he did ask for offers for people to cook for him.
"I'm home, I'm lonely. A percent of the city doesn't like me, so I'm not going to eat," he said.
SLANTS AND SCREENS
! Defensive end Antwan Odom (shoulder) said he'll try to go this week, but Lewis said left guard Andrew Whitworth (ankle), guard Scott Kooistra (knee) and defensive end Eric Henderson (neck) are out with others pending.
! Safety Chinedum Ndukwe (foot) was seen in a boot and not on the field and left tackle Levi Jones (leg) wasn't on the field. Cornerback David Jones (knee) and SAM linebacker Rashad Jeanty (shin) didn't work. Odom was suited up but was limited. So was Houshmandzadeh (back). Wide receiver Jerome Simpson (ankle) was back.
! Also Wednesday, Willie Anderson broke up the guys on the Cincinnati conference call with the line of the day when he said he wanted to retire a Bengal so "I could get a Rich Braham tractor." That was the Bengals retirement gift to the long-time center during the 2006 season finale.
But Lewis thinks he'll at least get a huge reception from the Paul Brown Stadium crowd Sunday wearing the No. 79 of the Ravens.
"I would think it would be great. Why would it not be great?" Lewis said. "I don't think it would be anything other than that."
Asked what he thinks of when he thinks of Anderson, Lewis said, "Great pro. Just a guy that wanted the opportunity to help his team every day and I think that's important. He's thriving in the environment of a team that's winning. And he's got the opportunity to play now and he's doing good things. I'm sure he's feeling really good."
! Also Wednesday the Bengals re-signed fullback J.D. Runnels to the practice squad, where he served for two weeks earlier this season. The 5-11, 240-pound Runnels is a third-year NFL player out of Oklahoma. He was a sixth-round Bears draft choice in 2006 and was on their roster all of '06 and played in two games with no stats. He spent the 2007 season on Chicago's IR and was waived last July 24 before he was went to Tampa Bay for four days in August.