In a departure from his career norm, Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco didn't talk to the Cincinnati media Wednesday. It didn't look to be anything personal ("I just want to play football," he said), but he did do the conference call for the New England media and predicted that Patriots head coach and good friend Bill Belichick will continue to double-team him.
"Of course, nothing is going to change. He's done the same thing every time I've played the Patriots since I've been in the NFL," The Ocho said. "I don't think it's going to change this time, either. I'm going to wait for my opportunities to come and, when they do, I'm going to make the most of them."
The New England guys were taken back by a low-key Chad and he told them he wasn't going to come out chirping in Week 1. He went humble as the talk turned to a starting secondary that has one rookie (cornerback Devin McCourty) and one second-year player (cornerback Darius Butler).
"They play football just like I play football. They look good on film. I'm sure their coaches will put them in a position to be able to make plays, so I'm going to approach this game very humbly," he said. "There's not too many times I play against the Patriots and have enormous games. They game-plan very well. They're very smart. I have to play sound football myself in order to be successful."
He's right about that. Ochocinco has never broken out big against Belichick, although he did have five catches for 80 yards in the Pats 35-27 win in Foxboro in 2004. Belichick blanked Ochocinco in his NFL debut on Sept. 9, 2001 in a Bengals win at PBS. In the next three games, all Patriots wins, The Ocho has caught 14 balls for 197 yards (14.1) and a touchdown.
You'd think Belichick would be wary of a guy with The Ocho's personality, but the button-down Hall of Fame coach isn't as hooded as everyone thinks about that stuff. He likes players that like the game even if it is a bit Ochocentric.
"Bill and I got very well acquainted once we got to the Pro Bowl and got to know each other. It became a relationship beyond just a football player and a coach," The Ocho said. "He became a friend of mine. He has a lot of respect for me in my game and I have a lot of respect for him in everything he's done as a coach. We just became really close and fond of each other's work. He's one that I look up to tremendously, one that I've never played for, but I show the same respect as if he was my own head coach."
Belichick had a classic line when his media asked him if he follows The Ocho on Twitter.
"No, I don't do Twitter or MyFace or any of that stuff," he said.
But he follows tape.
"I like Chad. I like him as a player. I like him as a person. I like his enthusiasm and the fun he has with football," Belichick said in his Foxboro news conference. "And I like how he competes on the football field. I have a lot of respect for that. [We're] an odd couple, but in the end I think we have a lot of things in common."
They go all the way back to before that 2001 opener.
"The first time I met Chad was at USC when I worked him out there on the USC campus," Belichick said. "[We] kind of ran him into the ground. It was a good workout. It was very impressive. He was, I'd say, a little raw coming out of college but very talented and clearly he made the transition very quickly to picking up the skills and techniques and so forth that maybe he didn't get a chance to do in college. He picked those up in a hurry. [He's] related to Keyshawn [Johnson], so we kind of stayed in touch with him through the years there and then got to spend some time with him a couple years ago out there at the Pro Bowl."
Yes, The Ocho has even got Bill Belichick to talk trash.
"Chad and I have gotten into it before," he said, "But in the end it all comes down to what happens on Sunday out on the field. We'll do our best; I'm sure he'll do his best and we'll see what happens."