Hernandez allows 'free' passage of No. 85

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- For well-established veterans, their identity is often tied to their jersey number. When these players join new teams, it is customary that players further down the pecking order will relinquish that number, often with a small monetary sum exchanged.

When Chad Ochocinco arrived in Foxboro yesterday, his number is more than just his brand: it's his last name. Tight end Aaron Hernandez could have held out for the best offer from Ochocinco, but instead, Hernandez let his No. 85 jersey pass to the former Bengals receiver for free.

"We're playing at a high level, so all of us have a decent amount of money. I definitely should have [asked for compensation], but I didn't," Hernandez laughed. "It was just a welcome to the team. ...I thought he may look better and play better in 85, because that's his last name. So why not give it to him."

Hernandez, in his return to practice on Saturday morning, donned a No. 81 jersey, formerly worn by wide receiver Randy Moss last season, and undrafted rookie receiver Jeremy Ross this training camp.

"I had a chance to get my college number [81] back, and [Ochocinco] obviously wanted 85," Hernandez explained. "It wasn't a problem. So I thought he deserved it and should get it."

Ochocinco was most likely ready to make a financial offer to the second-year tight end, so Hernandez's generosity must have surely come as a surprise.

"As soon as [Ochocinco] came in, he was smiling, so I knew he was going to talk to me about the number," Hernandez said. "I obviously could have [said]: 'no, I don't want to give it up.' But I'm not that type of person. [No.] 81 was the jersey that I wanted when I came here, but [Randy] Moss had it, so it actually worked out perfectly."