Updated: 6:10 p.m.
We've heard it before and as he went into the bye week Wednesday, Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco said it again.
"When I do come back," he said of next Monday, "I'm going to be the Chad of old."
The Ocho, star of screen, cereal and satellite, made a shocking admission: He's not playing with confidence and he points to his numbers. After a 159-yard game in the opener, he's caught 157 yards in the last four games. He's on pace for just 1,012 yards, 35 fewer than last year's career low for a full 16 games. And he says a perfect example is the ball he dropped over the middle with 25 seconds left last Sunday that would have put the Bengals in the field-goal range of Mike Nugent instead of what turned out to be a game-winning interception for Tampa Bay.
"Easy. Easy stuff like that," The Ocho said. "I basically lost the game. Everybody would say, 'Well, the game is within four quarters.' But that's a time when a superstar is supposed to make that play, and the field-goal kicker comes on and kicks it and I miss it. That's what I mean about the confidence. A confident Chad catches the ball 10 out of 10 (times)."
He's gone laid-back, low-profile before for a variety of reasons down through the years. This time, he said, it was because he's 32 and he wanted to do something different. Now he says he's going back to putting out bulletin-board material for the DBs. Respectful trash-talking, he calls it.
"I haven't been the Chad of old," he said. "The Chad we're all used to. The boisterous, sometimes little borderline cocky-arrogant. But that's what everybody feeds off as a city and an organization."
A preview? The Ocho and wide receiver Terrell Owens were screaming at each other after some one-on-one basketball Wednesday. The Ocho was furious that he ran around while Owens stood beyond the three-point line and apparently still beat him, accusing him of "just wanting to play H-O-R-S-E." The Ocho tried to get TV cameras to record a game, but the gym is restricted to media. All in good fun, it seemed, as he yelled out to Owens leaving the locker room, "Have a good bye week."
The Ocho isn't talking about sending Pepto-Bismol to opposing secondaries (like he did in '04), or donning an imitation Hall of Fame jacket to celebrate a touchdown (like he did in '07), or demanding a new contract (like he did in '08). He's talking about something like another cornerbacks checklist or some trash lite during the weekly Wednesday media sessions he's usually been silent.
"I was just trying something new, you know? You know, you're 32, you're trying to be a little bit more mature and try a different approach," he said. "That (bleep) doesn't work. It's not working. Honestly, I'm going out there flat. Every game I'm going out there flat. I'm unsure of myself when the ball is coming."
"One step at a time," he said of the celebrations. "The first thing I have to do is be true to who I am and go back to being what Chad has been the past few years and not try to be something that I'm not."
On that last drop, The Ocho said he was not thinking about yards after catch. In fact, with so little time left he was thinking the exact opposite.
"It was catch it and get down," he said. "I'm coming back revamped. I've tried something new and it's not working. It's not working, it's not working at all. Honestly. Honestly. If you haven't been able to figure it out, that I'm able to play my style of play by being boisterous, by talking, by giving other teams bulletin board material and in my mind I know I have no choice but to go out and perform at a high level. I feed off of that."
The Ocho agrees that the bye came at the right time after two straight losses to teams the Bengals were supposed to beat. He says the New/Old Ocho will take care of that.
"The panic button is going to get hit. You go into a hole at 2-4 and that's tough," The Ocho said. "Especially with the schedule we have, that's tough. We've got Atlanta, then we've got Miami and it doesn't get easier when you keep going down the schedule. You've got Indy, you've got Pittsburgh, oh my God, yeah. This is much needed, big time. Big time. So we'll be fine, trust me. Trust me. Because once I start talking (bleep), it's on."
BOO BIRDS: Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer agrees that this is the most heat he's drawn in his seven years as the starter. But until his mother told him, he didn't realize the fans booed his 20,000th passing yard.
Palmer admitted the booing affects his family more than it does him.
"My folks were at the game and they feel it. It definitely affects them more than it affects me. But like I said, I've been through this before," he said.
GOOD VIBES: Running back Cedric Benson has been hearing the right things since the day after the Tampa Bay loss. After some players spoke up in Wednesday's offensive meeting in which coordinator Bob Bratkowski led with talking about attention to detail and the focus on little things, he's getting some good vibes.
"It's a good thing. It's a good sign to see people step up and say something," Benson said. "It is a good thing to hear people talking about correcting things -- finishing and being aggressive out there. ... Guys have spoken out. Everybody hears it, everybody feels it. Guys are focused on their job. Everybody. A few defensive guys upset. Offensive guys upset. The team in total.
"A lot of people were disappointed and had a bad taste from last week. I think a lot of things are going to improve after that."
Right guard Bobbie Williams says it all starts upstairs.
In the head.
"Use it to get your mind right, your body right, whatever you need to do," Williams said. "When you come back on Sunday night, we need to come with focus. We need to have it made up in your mind that you're here for a purpose. Whatever you do. Plain and simple."
Williams says the same personnel is there from last season. The same mentality is there. The only thing that's different "is we just have to go do it. ... The solidarity and ambition is there … we've got to keep plugging away, get away from the distractions and focus back on football and the guys in this locker room."
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Wide receiver Jordan Shipley (concussion) and defensive lineman Jon Fanene (hamstring) returned to practice Wednesday morning on the Paul Brown Stadium field as the Bengals gathered for their last day before reconvening Monday after their bye week.
Fanene has been out since he got injured in the opener, and Shipley put on a helmet for the first time since Browns cornerback T.J. Ward gave him a $15,000 elbow to the head 10 days ago in Cleveland.
Shipley said he didn't miss a day of meetings and that he started doing light cardio just 48 hours after the hit.
» Head coach Marvin Lewis said on Monday he wanted to work his young players this week, so on the sidelines were The Ocho and Owens, as well as left tackle Andrew Whitworth. Also not on the field were running backs Brian Leonard and Bernard Scott and right end Antwan Odom. Odom left last Sunday's game with a knee problem while Leonard (foot) and Scott (hamstring) have been on the injury reports early in the season. Odom had a brace on his knee and said it could be a couple of weeks.
» Benson, the Bengals downhill, physical answer, admits he'd like to be out there all the time on third-and-short but he's not a lot of times because Leonard is the third-down back and that's who got the ball on a third-and-two in the fourth quarter Sunday. He got stoned on a perimeter play right after Benson ripped a four-yarder up the middle on third-and-1.
"I removed my emotions from the game weeks ago," Benson said. "The decisions that are made for me to not be in on third down or whatever plays are called on third down I have no control over so I totally remove myself from getting emotionally involved in that because I could throw a fit or do anything, that's not going to change anything. Matter of fact, I don't think anybody's going to listen. So, I'm not the guy to talk to about that. But, if my number is called in that situation I am going to be there and I am going to get the first down."