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.

Felger: 'The Oakland Raiders are garbage, and they always have been'

Felger: 'The Oakland Raiders are garbage, and they always have been'

Want a classic Felger rant? Or forget Felger; a classic rant, period?

Watch the video above as Michael Felger eviscerates the Oakland Raiders.

"You know what the Oakland Raiders are? And their fans, and their city? A bunch of dirtbags," Felger said Tuesday on Felger & Mazz. "If that's not the most overrated team and organization in the history of sports, I don't know what is . . . That is a garbage organization and it has always has been.

"And the way people are treating them now, like . . . the Green Bay Packers or the Boston Celtics or the Montreal Canadiens or the New York Yankees are moving, is laughable. Laughable! The Oakland Raiders are garbage. And they always have been."

There's more . . . ,much more. Watch the video to hear the full treatment.

Rules changes are in: Field-goal leap, crackback blocks banned

Rules changes are in: Field-goal leap, crackback blocks banned

PHOENIX -- The NFL has announced which rules, bylaw and resolution proposals passed following Tuesday's vote at the Arizona Biltmore. The full list is below, but here are a couple of the noteworthy changes from a Patriots perspective . . . 

* That leap-the-line play that Jamie Collins and Shea McClellin have executed for the Patriots over the course of the last two seasons? That's been prohibited, as expected. The league did not want coaches to be responsible for putting a player in a position where he may suffer a head or neck injury. (Which is different from a player putting himself in that position with a split-second decision to leave his feet mid-play.)

MORE PATRIOTS

* Receivers running pass routes can now be considered "defenseless." That means that even within the five-yard "chuck" area beyond the line of scrimmage, receivers will have some measure of protection. The Patriots, like many teams, have called for linebackers to disrupt the routes of shallow crossers, which can lead to monster hits on unexpecting players. Those types of collisions may now be fewer and farther between.

* Crackback blocks are now prohibited by a player who is in motion, even if the player is not more than two yards outside the tackle box at the snap. What's the Patriots connection here? It seems as though the overtime play that won Super Bowl LI -- during which Julian Edelman came in motion and "cracked" down on corner Brian Poole -- is now illegal. We'll look for clarification on this when the league holds its press conference describing the rules changes later on Tuesday.

Approved 2017 Playing Rules Proposals

2a. By Philadelphia; Prohibits the “leaper” block attempt on field goal and extra point plays. (Final language will be available on NFLCommunications.com)  

8.   By Competition Committee; Makes permanent the rule that disqualifies a player who is penalized twice in one game for certain types of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls. 

9.   By Competition Committee; Changes the spot of the next snap after a touchback resulting from a free kick to the 25-yard line for one year only. 

11. By Competition Committee; Gives a receiver running a pass route defenseless player protection. 

12. By Competition Committee; Makes crackback blocks prohibited by a backfield player who is in motion, even if he is not more than two yards outside the tackle when the ball is snapped. 

13. By Competition Committee; Replaces the sideline replay monitor with a hand-held device and authorizes designated members of the Officiating department to make the final decision on replay reviews. 

14. By Competition Committee; Makes it Unsportsmanlike Conduct to commit multiple fouls during the same down designed to manipulate the game clock. 

15. By Competition Committee; Makes actions to conserve time illegal after the two-minute warning of either half.

Approved 2017 Bylaw Proposals

4.     By Competition Committee; Liberalizes rules for timing, testing, and administering physical examinations to draft-eligible players at a club’s facility for one year only. 

5.     By Competition Committee; Changes the procedures for returning a player on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform or Reserve/Non-Football Injury or Illness to the Active List to be similar to those for returning a player that was Designated for Return.  

6.     By Competition Committee; The League office will transmit a Personnel Notice to clubs on Sundays during training camp and preseason.

Approved 2017 Resolution Proposal

G-4.     By Competition Committee: Permits a contract or non-contract non-football employee to interview with and be hired by another club during the playing season, provided the employer club has consented.