NFL Already Losing Ground During Labor Dispute: Chad Ochocinco Joins MLS

Darin Pike@darinpikeContributor IMarch 23, 2011

Zoran Savic working with Chad Ochocinco...is the Gatorade commercial far off?
Zoran Savic working with Chad Ochocinco...is the Gatorade commercial far off?Jamie Squire/Getty Images

In retrospect, it likely was destiny. The NFL labor dispute is now having an impact on another sport.

As players are not currently limited to contractual terms, and free agents can't sign new contracts in the NFL, a high-profile player is flirting with another sport.

Maybe it was also inevitable that person would be one of the flamboyant receivers from Cincinnati. As much as we might have expected it to be Terrell Owens, the player formerly known as Chad Johnson and temporarily as Chad Ochocinco is trying his hand…well, legs…at Major League Soccer.

Kansas City of the MLS has given Ochocinco a four-day tryout to determine if he might have a role with their squad. The first day of his workout was hardly perfect, as he was panting and looked exhausted following Day 1. It is possible that his conditioning has waned over the last two months, but it is more likely that there is a bit more running in soccer than the manner in which Ochocinco plays football.

"Exactly what I expected," Ochocinco said. "I would be a little winded being that I haven't ran at this pace or this level since the end of our season of football. It was fun. I didn't expect to come in here and be Superman."

This appears to be more than just a publicity stunt, as Ochocinco said he will join the team if he is invited. "I would play for free," he said. 

It is quite possible that dollar figure has a pretty high correlation with his value on the field. However, the marketing aspect can’t be ignored. 

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Ochocinco would be wearing his signature “85” jersey for Kansas City. The attention and sales associated with him could be huge. It certainly has been so far, as 40 media representatives lined the practice field Wednesday morning. 

That figure might not seem odd if one were comparing it to a Bengals or Chelsea practice, but the reporters present for a normal MLS practice could all carpool to the stadium. In a compact car.

Ochocinco definitely has a passion for the game, and he isn't without skill. Family pressures forced him to focus on football at the end of high school, as there was a potential for an NFL career. 

There is some soccer-rust that needs to be fixed, but his size and athleticism on the field were obvious.

"The time I've had off from the game of this football has been a very long time," he said. "There's no way I can make up that ground, the years I've been away from the game. But I do have a love for it."

His coach in the other football, Marvin Lewis, wasted no time in taking a shot at Ochocinco. "How does he do at anything?" Lewis told reporters. "What has he ever done that he's completed? What circle has he ever connected in any way?"

Ochocinco responded as expected via Twitter, bemoaning Lewis' relationship to fellow Bengal Carson Palmer.

The reception has been a little more warm from Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes. He dedicated his assistant coach, Zoran Savic, to Ochocinco for the day.

"He was a little bit hesitant early on, a little bit tentative," Vermes said. "But I think now he's got a good feel for what a day goes like for us. You can see he's very coachable. I wouldn't try to make any determinations at this point."

Don’t expect to see Ochocinco making a significant impact on the pitch, but his potential impact to MLS coffers is impossible to ignore. His efforts, and the diatribe with Lewis, also make his return to the Bengals even less likely than they were.