Ochocinco just wants to 'talk about football'

September 15, 2010|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

Sit Chad Ochocinco in front of a computer, and his fingers do a lot of talking.

But during a teleconference with Baltimore media Wednesday, the outspoken Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver was downright civil and reserved.

Four times, Ochocinco was asked to comment about popularizing Twitter in the NFL and engaging Ravens running back Willis McGahee and fullback Le'Ron McClain via Twitter Tuesday night, and Ochocinco deflected every query.

In what became a popular refrain from him, Ochocinco answered every question about Twitter with a variation of, "I want to talk about football."

That's all well and good, but Ochocinco has no one but himself to blame when media and fans pepper him with questions that sometimes concern the attention-seeking antics that have made him one of the more popular players in the league.

From changing his given surname of Johnson to reflect his No. 85 jersey to his outlandish touchdown celebrations to his prolific use of Twitter, Ochocinco has carved out a niche as a player willing to defy what society — and a few NFL executives — define as normal.

But for those who know Ochocinco, his bluster tends to overshadow an impressive NFL career.

The 10-year veteran is the Bengals' all-time leader in receptions (684) and yards (9,952) and has been invited to the Pro Bowl six times. He needs just 48 receiving yards to become the 33rd player to reach the 10,000-yard mark in his career.

Ravens cornerback Fabian Washington, who was often a target of Ochocinco's taunts on Twitter last season, said opponents should not be lulled into thinking that Ochocinco doesn't have the talent to back up his words.

"He's a different type of receiver because he pretty much has everything you could have as a receiver," Washington said. "He's fast, quick, he can catch, he comes out of his breaks very well, and it's a challenge. If you're a corner in this league, these are the games that you've got to get up for, and you've got to bring your A-game. That's enjoyable because it's going to be a boxing match and at the same time, it's going to be a chess match. I know he's going to try to guess what I'm doing, and I'm going to try to guess what he's doing. It should be fun and exciting."

Marvin Lewis is one of Ochocinco's most ardent supporters, but even the Cincinnati head coach can get a little weary of his candid wide receiver.

Twice during his teleconference with Baltimore media Wednesday, Lewis referred to Ochocinco as "knucklehead." Although Lewis said Ochocinco differed from Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis in their approach to football, he did acknowledge that Ochocinco works hard to refine his skills.

"As far as the game and practice and everything, he's as intense in practice as Ray is," Lewis said. "And I think that's what helped him play well. He practices [hard]. I have to pull him out of practices. I have to pull him out of plays against the defense because he wants to take every rep in practice. So that part, they kind of share that. I think Chad really looks to Ray for guidance, and I think that's a good thing. Ray has helped him do some of his sideways acting a lot and to keep him mindful of what's important."

Which makes his exchanges with McGahee and McClain somewhat puzzling. Cincinnati is still smarting from a 14-point thrashing at the hands of the New England Patriots last Sunday, while the Ravens — courtesy of a 10-9 win against the New York Jets Monday night — share the lead in the AFC North with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

McGahee didn't put much stock into the banter.

"That was just Chad being Chad," he said. "Ain't nothing. Yeah, I knew it was all in fun. It was no big deal."

McClain said he got involved after reading the back-and-forth between Ochocinco and McGahee earlier in the evening.

"Chad is one of my partners I got real cool with down at the Pro Bowl [in January]," McClain said. "So we're just pretty much joking around on the Twitter yesterday. Just arguing and whatever. We know both of us play offense. We'll probably never go against each other, but we're just fooling around, getting ready for a big game on Sunday."

One reason for his pokes at the Ravens could be Ochocinco's history against them. In the Bengals' last 10 victories over the Ravens since 2001, Ochocinco is averaging 88.9 yards and has scored five touchdowns. In the team's eight losses to the Ravens, Ochocinco's average drops to 53.5, and he has only scored twice.

Ochocinco said he gets a particular rise out of playing against the Ravens, even moreso than against the Steelers or Cleveland Browns.

"I'm really excited," he said. "I've talked to you guys before, and the only game I really, really get excited for is when we play the Ravens because you have to account for every single person on the field, and that just gets me going. I don't know what it is about playing them, I just get really excited."

Asked to elaborate, Ochocinco replied, "I don't know. It's something about playing the Ravens. It's like an extra oomph. I don't know what it is, man."

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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