Change in air for Chad, Thornton


Chinedum Ndukwe, John Thornton, Chad Ochocinco, Ben Utecht and Charles Fisher

Posted: 11:30 a.m.

Chad Ochocinco showed up Tuesday in a black T-shirt that said more than "Change Starts Now," with a drawing of Barack Obama in the 'O."

"Oh yeah. That's about us as a team," said The Ocho during a visit to Paul Brown Stadium. "If I'm coming in as excited as I am now, you know how it's going to go."

Ochocinco had to laugh when he was told his appearance was the anti-'08, when he showed up to camp limping and griping. On Tuesday he took part in a panel discussion on social networking hosted by Bengals director of sales and public affairs Jeff Berding for suite holders and members of the business community.

Change was certainly in the air as The Ocho, safety Chinedum Ndukwe, and tight end Ben Utecht discussed the impact of Twitter, Facebook, and other Internet engines they have used in their life off the field. John Thornton, who is usually preparing for training camp about this time, chaired the discussion that also included Andy Ware and Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com.

Thornton, 32, now known as the Bengals former defensive tackle, began his post-playing career with a video presentation on how social networking can help businesses and later Tuesday he'll host a downtown reception celebrating the launch of his company Jockbiz that helps athletes off the field.

It's all Thornton all the time and the Bengals still wanted a piece of him. He says they offered him a contract to come back for a seventh season (11th in the NFL),  but he decided against it because "I think both of us were moving in different directions. They wanted to get better and they did get better. I have no problem with that."

That doesn't mean he's going to stay retired. He has yet to put any papers into the league, but he has also embarked on a heavy non-football schedule. 

He won't show up at camp until the second practice Saturday morning and begin blogging about the Bengals on his site AllProBlogger.com.

"I'm going to find the coldest drink I can find and stand next to Jay Hayes," Thornton said of the defensive line coach. "I have a lot of respect for these guys and Mike Brown. I'm still close to a lot of my teammates. I still text them. I'm not going to miss camp, but I'm going to miss my relationship with the guys."

He'll still have a big presence in town. Along with his blogging he's going to write a weekly critique for The Cincinnati Enquirer of Hard Knocks when the HBO documentary of the Bengals training camp hits the airwaves next month. He'll also be appearing with Lance McAlister on Sports Talk every Thursday night on WLW.

Ochocinco, as he informed the gathering of about 75, is appearing every Sunday and "it's going to be a hell of a season."

In merely a month he has become one of the top Twitterers of all-time and he says he's not going to stop. He says he's looking for a vehicle to cut out "the middle man,' - the media - so he can relate to fans directly.

The Ocho admitted he "created a kind of monster" with his image during last season but he insisted he's not the guy portrayed in the media.

He advised businesses to get their name out there and when a homeless advocate wondered how she could get her message out via the new technology he offered to help.

"I'm on,' he said, "24/7."

Ndukwe, who has established a wellness foundation, and Utecht, who has just cut his first Christian music CD, also gave tips on how the right message can be transmitted. Thornton noted that Ndukwe, just off his second trip to Nigeria, has a different agenda than the Ocho or Utecht, since some of his possible goals are judge, U.S. Senator, or Ambassador to Nigeria.

"He's going to be clean-cut," Thornton joked.

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