Ochocinco maintains there's no problem

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Ochocinco maintains there's no problem

INDIANAPOLIS -- Chad Ochocinco arrived at Wednesday's media blitz 20 minutes late. A large crowd of reporters had already gathered around his table. They stepped over and on top of each other, jockeying for prime real estate around the fallen star's landing spot.
Ochocinco talked for every minute of the morning he'd missed.

Let me address this, the New England Patriots is an elite organization where everything is in house and always stays in house, its like Fort Knox," he explained. "There are no leaks, no sources, so claimed, going around the league. Theres no such thing. So, with the media, with the fans, with everyone else, is their public opinion on what they feel might be the problem. They dont know what goes on behind closed doors. Nobody does."

What people know is what they've seen this season: 15 catches for 276 yards and one touchdown. Considering his 2009 numbers -- 72 catches, 1,047 yards, 9 touchdowns -- the interpretation can only be negative. Something is off.

No, theres no problem understanding the Pats' system, he maintained. Im extremely intelligent, extremely intelligent. Football sense, life, the way I carry myself, the things I do, we can all see I have sense, Im smart. Its just that it didnt play out the way it was supposed to play out.

One can assume a disconnect between Ochocinco and Tom Brady. Not that Brady would ever hint at any disfunction. The quarterback has only been complimentary, tossing out bouquets like "work ethic" whenever Ochocinco's game-day impotence is raised. The pair's lack of on-field chemistry speaks louder than either of them, anyway.

No amount of adorable analogies can soften that reality.

Were dating," Ochocinco said of his quarterback. "First year of a marriage is always rough, always rough. Ive always had the chip on my shoulder, thats my style, its the way I am. If I dont have the chip, Im going to create it by saying something to someone who had to deal with me that week. Im just going to be quiet.

"I can still have fun. I sort of have to feel my way through it first. This seasons been, its more of a feel-my-way-through-it. Its a learning process. You just cant come into something new and just bust the door down and say, Hey, Im here.

Maybe not. But you could say he never even tip-toed over the Patriots threshold.
Yet Ochocinco is in Indy, and from the sounds of it, he's reconciled the question of entitlement by focusing on the bigger picture.

This playoff run, this Super Bowl is very meaningful. Many would say it didnt go the way I would like it, not up to my expectations. Everybody can see that, but I dont think this season negates a career of what I consider greatness, worth of fun. To get to this point quietly, most people call it bittersweet, but its a blessing. People will play this game for years, for years and many names, many greats without having a chance to sniff the Super Bowl.

"To be able to be here, regardless of how this season went is a blessing, period. Especially where Ive come from, what Ive been through. To get to this, not just this stage, but the NFL in general. Im happy, it could be my last one. Theres no reason to hang my head, theres no reason to be upset. It is what it is and Im still smiling. Ive been smiling all year.

You can't say Ochocinco's smile won't widen if New England wins a ring. No matter how many catches he doesn't have.

Injury report: Amendola out for Ravens game, Bennett questionable

Injury report: Amendola out for Ravens game, Bennett questionable

Wide receiver Danny Amendola was officially listed as out on the injury report for the Patriots' Monday night home game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Amendola injured his ankle on a punt return against the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday. It will be the first game he's missed this season. The Patriots signed veteran wide receiver and kick returner Griff Whalen during the week.

Tight end Martellus Bennett (ankle, shoulder) is among the Pats listed as questionable, along with special teams ace Matt Slater (foot), who missed the Rams game, safety Jordan Richards (knee), linebacker Elandon Roberts (hamstring) and cornerback Eric Rowe (hamstring).

Whalen, part of Colts' infamous fake punt play, settles in with Patriots

Whalen, part of Colts' infamous fake punt play, settles in with Patriots

FOXBORO – Griff Whalen was at the epicenter of one of the stupidest, funniest, most “did that just happen?!” plays in NFL history.

So indescribable it never even really earned a name, it was the fourth-down gadget play the Colts tried to run against the Patriots on Sunday Night Football in the first meeting between the teams after Indy ran to the principal’s office to start Deflategate. 

Whalen was the center on that play (I tried to call it “Fourth-and-Wrong” but it didn’t take) and the millisecond between him snapping the ball and the three players processing that the ball had indeed been snapped is perhaps my favorite moment of the past several seasons. 

Whalen is a Patriot now, brought in this week in the wake of Danny Amendola’s knee injury presumably to fill Amendola’s role as a punt returner and wideout. The Colts released him last January, the Dolphins picked him up and cut him at the end of training camp and the Chargers had him on their roster from mid-September until releasing him last month after eight games, two catches and 22 yards. He returned kickoffs for San Diego but no punts since 2015.

The primary area of need for the Patriots is on punt returns. Rookie Cyrus Jones’ transition to appearing comfortable remains glacially slow. It was Jones’ muff last week that brought on Amendola in relief. When Amendola hurt his ankle on a late-game return, the Patriots were forced to decide between Jones, wideout Julian Edelman (who doesn’t need extra work) and making a move.

Whalen is a move they made.

The slight and baby-faced Whalen indicated he had fielded some punts in practice, saying it went, “Fine.” Punt returns are something he’s done “since I was a kid.”

His first impression of the team was, "A lot of what I expected to see. A lot of detail. A lot of effort in practice. Good coaching all-around. I am excited to be here. I was excited to come into a good team that I’d gone against a few times. Hopefully come in and help out the team with whatever I can.”

I asked Whalen if he saw much of the commentary or creativity last year’s failed play spawned.

“I wasn’t paying too much attention,” he said. “When it’s during the season guys are pretty locked in on what they’re doing inside the building. But I heard more about it later on afterwards.”

Asked if he’d heard anything about the play since being here, Whalen replied, “I haven’t. Kinda was [expecting it].”

The Patriots will be hoping Whalen remains as productive for them on fourth down this year as he was in 2015.