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.