One year later, and Chad Ochocinco's legacy as a Bengal remains a polarizing topic.
For some he represented everything that has been wrong with the Cincinnati Bengals of recent years, and for others he was a prolific player trying to making the best of a bad situation.
Whichever camp you find yourself in, there is little denying that Ochocinco continues to be one of the NFL's brightest stars, whether his on the field talents warrant that accolade or not, as has clearly been the case in 2011.
Ocho's departure has proved to be beneficial for a Bengals team in need of an overhaul. But his admiration for the fans in Cincinnati continues to see him adored by the vast majority, and will likely be the case when he lines up in a Patriots uniform in Indianapolis on Sunday.
His comments this past week seem to have reflected a Chad Ochocinco that has both matured and been humbled during his disappointing 2011 campaign.
After a quiet year in the media, only to be eclipsed by an even quieter year on the field, Ochocinco took the time to speak to a cavalcade of reporters in the last 48 hours, speaking about his former team with much praise:
“They gave me life. … [Bengals owner] Mike [Brown] was good to me, the city was good to me, the media—we had our ups and downs—it made it fun. The fans were epic 10 straight years. Of course, I had my rifs, my raffs. I’m like any other human being. I’m not perfect. There’s nothing bad I can actually say.”
He also had favorable words for the Pro Bowl rookie receiver who took his spot, A.J. Green:
“What he did this year was no surprise, he’s still raw. That’s the scary part. He’s still raw, but he’s a great talent and he’s only going to get better. Especially the tools he has, he’s only going to get better as time goes on. You don’t drop off.”
On Wednesday, Marvin Lewis shared some kind thoughts on Ochocinco before a stint on NFL Network: "If you get this opportunity like Chad is, it kind of helps complete your career a little bit."
So how will Bengals fans feel come Sunday afternoon? There may be some who still resent Chad for his role in a largely forgettable decade of Bengals football.
There may be some who cannot see past Chad as a mere passenger on a team that has no use for him.
With Tom Brady's favorite target Rob Gronkowski looking fragile, there couldn't be a better time for Ochocinco to impress his coaching staff. The element of surprise has always been key on Super bowl Sunday, but whether Chad can fill that role remains to be seen.
If I were to forget for a moment the need to try and be objective in my commentary, I would have to admit a real desire to see Chad succeed in Indy. Despite the "ups and downs" with which he characterized his time as a Bengal, it would be foolish to think that Ochocinco was responsible for all of the problems in Cincy.
One thing that is for certain is the way in which he embraced the fans and city of Cincinnati, and for that he will always be adored. I look forward to Sunday and will be rooting wholeheartedly for him whenever he see's a snap.
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