Ochocinco playing football again

Published 1:50 am Wednesday, June 16, 2010

CINCINNATI — Chad Ochocinco caught a 55-yard pass from Carson Palmer in stride, then raised both arms toward a camera filming the Cincinnati Bengals minicamp from the back of the end zone.

Always, he finds the camera.

The Pro Bowl receiver took a break from dancing and dating to play some football on Tuesday. He looked rusty at times during his first practice of a mandatory, three-day minicamp — his first workout with the team since a playoff loss to the Jets.

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He’s getting back to the job that made him a star and gave him all those offseason opportunities in Hollywood.

“He hasn’t played football in a while,” coach Marvin Lewis said. “He hasn’t been with us. Our (other) guys have been doing a great job on the field and when you haven’t been running and playing football like we have, you’re going to be behind in it.

“He’s got time to get caught up between now and training camp, but he has to get his football legs back under him, which we knew he would.”

Ochocinco didn’t attended the voluntary, offseason practices. Instead, he has competed on ABC’s hit show “Dancing With the Stars” and hosted a dating show on VH1. The 32-year-old receiver assured everyone on Tuesday that he has found time to stay in shape during what he considers a normal offseason.

“I’m still doing the same stuff, period,” Ochocinco said. “I’m still doing the same stuff I would normally be doing, it just happens to be one is on CBS, ABC — whatever it was — and one was on VH1. If it wasn’t on VH1, I’d be doing it behind the scenes.

“We make a big deal out of it, (but) I’d still be doing the same thing, it would just be off camera.”

His several-months absence created a few problems. The Bengals had to use other receivers in his role during practice, which made it difficult for their bevy of newcomers to settle into roles. Palmer said last week that Ochocinco’s absence threw things out of whack.

The two of them were out of sync at times on Tuesday — one of Palmer’s passes flew wide of the receiver. During one 7-on-7 play, Ochocinco ran a quick comeback route, yelled “hey, hey” at the quarterback to show he was open, then raised both arms when the ball went to somebody else.

Palmer’s comments last week didn’t seem to be an issue. Ochocinco stopped Palmer in the locker room for a private chat that made both of them smile.

“Chad’s been in this league a long time,” Palmer said. “He’s been a dominant receiver in this league. He knows what it takes to be great. He knows what it takes to win. He’s come in in good shape and looked good for his first day. There’s some rust on him, but that will wear off and he’ll get better each day.”

Ochocinco also has to get up to speed on changes in the passing game. Cincinnati finished 26th in the league last season, prompting an overhaul of the passing game.

“I don’t know if we’ve had this many new things,” said Palmer, entering his eighth season. “He’s been in the same offense for 10 years. I think this is the most change he will have seen in those 10 years, compared to his rookie year.”

Ochocinco ended last season with his two worst games. He failed to catch a pass in a 37-0 loss to the Jets that ended the regular season and his club-record streak of 120 consecutive games with a reception. A week later, he had only two catches for 28 yards in a 24-14 playoff loss to the Jets in Cincinnati.

After that, he left town and got into dancing and dating mode. He wanted to reassure everyone that he hasn’t ignored football.

“I just want everybody to remember nothing has changed,” he said. “That’s it. Seems there’s always questions when I’m not here (for voluntary workouts). There’s always questions when I’m not here, period. But I still train, I still work out the same way as everybody else has done and the way I’ve done in past years.

“I just need everybody to trust in me like birth control. You know, because I’m always going to be there for you 99.9 percent of the time. And that 1 percent was the Jets game, that’s it. It will always be that way.”