Paoletti: Ochocinco never caught on with Patriots

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Paoletti: Ochocinco never caught on with Patriots

The marriage was doomed at "I do."

Chad Ochocinco and the New England Patriots were never a match. Problem is, everyone focused on the wrong flaws.

Where the question was "Can he buckle down and abide?", it should have been "Can he play?" Or, more specifically, "Can he play here?"

When he called Foxboro "Heaven," who dared doubt him? With Tom Brady at Point A and Ochocinco at Point B, who didn't see at least 30 yards of turf stretched between their connection? The equation was so simple: Elite quarterback plus elite receiver equals . . .

Heaven.

Really, he should have been laughed at. Or he should have offered the idea to Disney for a flat fee and 50 percent of royalties.

Football players aren't delivered to glory in Foxboro. There's no Divine Right. There is the Patriot Way, and its foundation is hard work and humility.

Any veteran -- special teamer or star receiver -- who ends up in New England says the same thing about the system: He's never before experienced such expectation for perfection. Ever.

Ocho said it himself.

"That's what it's like around here," he told Jason Cole in January. "Everybody is pushing for perfection, and they're pushing hard. I've never seen anything like it in my whole career. You understand why this team is where it is . . . Tom is on you about the littlest things, that you were a step off where you should be or the angle is wrong or whatever it is. Really, he has me walking on eggshells, and I haven't done that since I was a rookie."

Ah-ha.

Talent alone can't save you in this town. And maybe that's where the disconnect was -- for Ocho and for all. When he took the field, the No. 85 on his back stood for seven 1,000-plus yard receiving seasons. It promised 70-yard touchdown catches. For all the weapons the Patriots offense had, this -- deep wideout threat -- was the one they lacked. The one that would make them unstoppable.

For it all to fall apart because he wouldn't, or couldn't, learn the system? Inconceivable.

When Ochocinco dropped passes in training camp, it was dismissed as growing pains. When he caught just three balls in preseason, it was shrugged off as the rich's irresponsibility for time. When he said he was content to play receiver-by-committee -- The Brand surrendering to The Common Good -- it was seen as blushing modesty.

He'd grown up. He'd matured. Hell, maybe he just wanted a ring.

Except, again, this is the Patriots we're talking about. The bottom line is clear: "Do your job." The subtext: "No free rides."

But Ocho couldn't pay.

He's a man who never wanted to do homework. He struggled in high school and college -- blowing off classes for whatever else. Talent was always there to grab him by the scruff and keep him in the game.

In Cincinnati, he was the offense. In New England, he had to start over. And it was complex. The Patriots wouldn't bend to meet him. In fact, they'd scoff at the thought.

"All he needs is time. He didn't have an offseason. He'll put his head in the playbook this spring," the chorus sang.

Why think that? He'd never done it before. He didn't even do it during his most successful years in Black and Orange. The Boston Globe's Greg Bedard writes that Ocho wasn't brilliant so much as Carson Palmer and the Bengals "had a feel for where he would end up" and met him there.

But we didn't see that. Maybe the Patriots didn't see that before bringing him in.

Trouble happened when Brady found out. Early.

Think a 34-year old, control-freak quarterback wants to patiently develop a 33-year old diva receiver?

Wes Welker leads the league in receptions because of his unique chemistry with Brady. The Deion Branch Comeback Tour is beginning Year Three because he and Brady rekindled their flame quickly. Rob Gronkowski's first career reception was for just one yard, but earned his quarterback a touchdown. Brady and Aaron Hernandez clicked just as quickly.

This offseason's glut of veteran receiver acquisitions -- Donte' Stallworth, Jabar Gaffney, Brandon Lloyd -- point to a singular need: Proven talent. Whether or not Ochocinco still has soft hands and fleet feet, he lacks the most important thing a Patriots receiver needs.
Brady's trust.

So given retrospect's cruel clarity, we can say that no, Chad Ochocinco can't play -- not here.

We knew it wouldn't work. We just didn't know why.

Perry's Patriots 53-man roster projection

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Perry's Patriots 53-man roster projection

With New England Patriots organized workouts finished until next month, Phil Perry puts together another 53-man roster projection.

View the gallery here

Affleck offers passionate Brady defense when asked about Deflategate

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Affleck offers passionate Brady defense when asked about Deflategate

When the topic of Deflategate was broached on HBO's Any Given Wednesday with Bill Simmons, which debuted this week, Ben Affleck became all kinds of fired up.

"What they did was suspend Tom Brady for four days for not giving them his [expletive] cellphone," Affleck said. "I would never give an organization as leak-prone as the NFL my [expletive] cellphone . . . so you can just look through my emails and listen to my voicemails?"

Affleck grew up in Cambridge, Mass. and is a passionate Patriots fan. He made no attempts to hide his fandom, and his appreciation for Brady, as he and Simmons (also a Patriots fan) discussed the football-deflation controversy that has now lasted well over a year. 

Affleck, who said he would want to cast himself as Brady if ever a Deflategate movie was made, harped on the fact that the league wanted Brady to turn over his phone. 

"Maybe Tom Brady is so [expletive] classy and such a [expletive] gentleman," Affleck said, "that he doesn’t want people to know that he may have reflected on his real opinion on some of his co-workers."

Brady is waiting for the Second Circuit to make a decision as to whether or not it will rehear his case against the NFL. Earlier this offseason, the Second Circuit reinstated Brady's four-game suspension issued by the league when a three-judge panel ruled in favor of the NFL, 2-1. 

Pro Football Talk wrote on Thursday that a decision from the Second Circuit could come at any time. If the rehearding request is denied, Brady could then take the case to the Supreme Court. Should the Second Circuit grant Brady a rehearing, his suspension would be delaed until the court reached a decision. In that case, Brady could potentially play the entire 2016 season before a decision came to pass.