September 9, 2010

Patriots Beat: Friends, but just not on Facebook

By Mike Lowe mlowe@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

No, Bill Belichick said, he does not follow Chad Ochocinco on Twitter.

Chad Ochocinco
click image to enlarge

Chad Ochocinco

The Associated Press

"I don't do Twitter, My Face or anything like that," said Belichick, entering his 11th season as the New England Patriots' coach, unaware of his faux pas when it comes to naming today's social network sites.

But Belichick does follow Ochocinco, the Cincinnati Bengals' talented wide receiver, very closely. The two are friends, have been for years, and carry a great deal of respect for each other.

"I like him as a player, I like him as a person," said Belichick, who appeared more relaxed than usual Wednesday in his press briefing. "I like his enthusiasm and the fun he has with football, and I like the way he competes on the football field. I have a lot of respect for him.

"It's an odd couple but in the end I think we have a lot of things in common."

Odd couple?

Is that what you would call it? Belichick, the normally stoic, normally reserved and sometimes intimidating coach, friends with Chad Ochocinco, the always smiling, always tweeting (he has 1.2 million followers on Twitter and was fined by the NFL for tweeting during a preseason game), former "Dancing with the Stars" contestant and quasi-celebrity receiver?

That's beyond odd. It's Ripley's territory. As in, Believe it or not.

But it's true.

The two met when Belichick was putting him through a workout on the USC campus.

"I ran him into the ground," said Belichick. "It was a good workout. It was very impressive. He was, I'd say, a little raw coming out of college, but very talented and clearly he made the transition very quickly to picking up the skills and techniques and so forth that maybe he didn't get a chance to do in college."

Since Ochocinco is a cousin of a retired NFL receiver, Keyshawn Johnson (another Belichick favorite), the two kept in touch. Then a couple of years ago they got together at the Pro Bowl, Belichick as the AFC coach and Ochocinco a receiver.

It was there that the relationship grew stronger.

"We got to know each other," said Ochocinco, "and it became a relationship beyond just a football coach and a player. He became a friend of mine.

"He has a lot of respect for me in my game and I have a lot of respect for him in everything he's done as a coach. We just became really close and fond of each other's work. He's one that I look up to tremendously, one that I've never played for, but I show the same respect as if he was my own head coach."

Belichick knows Ochocinco can hurt the Patriots, especially with two young cornerbacks: second-year pro Darius Butler and rookie Devin McCourty. And Ochocinco knows the Patriots are going to do everything they can to stop him, most likely double-teaming him, even with Terrell Owens on the other side.

"They play football just like I play football," he said. "They look good on film. I'm sure their coaches will put them in a position to be able to make plays, so I'm going to approach this game very humbly. There's not too many times I play against the Patriots and have enormous games.

"They game-plan very well. They're very smart. I have to play sound football myself in order to be successful."

And that's why he stopped short of starting a trash-talking battle with Butler.

"I talked to him already through Twitter," said Ochocinco. "That was all I needed."

Twitter again.

Belichick may not follow him on it, and Ochocinco's own coach, Marvin Lewis, called it "a bunch of nonsense. I don't care where he goes to eat and so forth, or who he buys dinner for."

But people do. And Ochocinco, never one to shun the limelight, wants to oblige.

"It's something I like to do for my fans. I like to interact with my fans," he said. "It gives people the chance to see who I really am, because Twitter basically tells you a lot about a person and what they do -- their daily activities, how they are.

"You can kind of get a sense of who they are. I've been able to draft my image back. You don't have to read articles in the paper or anything of that nature. You actually know how I am based on just following me on Twitter. That's all, and I enjoy it."

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

mlowe@pressherald.com

 

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