If Ochocinco wanted to vent his frustration, he had the perfect stage at the Super Bowl's media day, even if his presence didn't warrant a podium. But Ochocinco was subdued and soft-spoken. You had to put your recorder right up to his face to even hear what he was saying.
This is not the Ochocinco from Cincinnati. He's not a distraction. He's not complaining about the lack of receptions or the lack of attention.
"If it was emotionally draining, I think I would have spoke out like I did in the past," Ochocinco said today. "I took this as a challenge, as a lesson. Will he be able to handle himself in different circumstances when he’s not that guy, if he’s not that main focal point? Will he be able to handle it? And I think I did extremely well.”
This is by far Ochocinco's worst season. In nine seasons with the Bengals (2002-10), he averaged 80 receptions per season and never caught fewer than 53 during that span.
Now, he's paired with one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history in Tom Brady and he's flopped.
One theory on why Ochocinco hasn't excelled in New England is because he hasn't been his flamboyant self. He can't be a star if he's not the life of the party.
But the real reason is that Ochocinco hasn't meshed in the Patriots' offense. He is an undisciplined route-runner who is a bad fit for the Patriots' "rule-based system," as former coach Eric Mangini described in this video.
Asked whether he would prefer 100 catches or a trip to the Super Bowl, he said, “I’d rather be right here. I’ve already put up all the numbers. I’ve already done that. It’s so much bigger than what everybody else is thinking about. They’re thinking about the individuals. If I would have been thinking like that, I would have got cut Week 3, complaining about the ball. It’s been a joy.”
Few Bengals would describe life with Ochocinco as being "a joy." Many talked about how the locker room got tighter without Ochocinco in it.
So, did Ochocinco detract from that last year?
"I think different guys are distractions in different ways," Bengals offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth said earlier this month. "Not necessarily themselves, but the way they're handled, the way different things are done in the locker room, and like I said, for once we had a locker room that was tight, that was together and pulling in the right direction."
Ochocinco, however, looks back at his time with the Bengals fondly.
"Everything about that organization, that city, it was made me what I am today," he said. "The fans were awesome. Coach [Marvin] Lewis [was] like a dad.”