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Ochocinco acquired, Haynesworth next

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By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / July 29, 2011

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FOXBOROUGH - The Patriots are quiet no more.

While the rival Jets on Wednesday re-signed their best receiver (Santonio Holmes) and became serious contenders to add one of the league’s best cornerbacks (Nnamdi Asomugha), the Patriots were nearly silent by comparison.

At least, it seemed they were.

Inside Gillette Stadium, often only half-jokingly referred to as the Fort Knox of the North, the phones were buzzing. On Tuesday, the Patriots called the Bengals, requesting and receiving permission to speak with wide receiver Chad Ochocinco about a possible trade.

Then Wednesday night, coach Bill Belichick called Redskins counterpart Mike Shanahan to inquire about defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.

By last night, the deal for Ochocinco was done, and the one for Haynesworth was nearly complete.

The move to get Haynesworth, who just a few years ago was considered one of the dominant forces in the game, was certainly more surprising. The 30-year-old signed a seven-year, $100 million contract with the Redskins just two years ago, but his time in Washington was marred by numerous incidents of fighting with teammates, verbal sparring with Shanahan, and behavior that led to Redskins past and present calling him an embarrassment to the uniform.

In his first news conference of the new season, just before his players took the field for the opening practice of training camp, Belichick would not talk about the Haynesworth trade because it wasn’t completed. He did acknowledge that he had been in talks with the Redskins, but by the letter of NFL law, Haynesworth was still a member of another team and Belichick could be charged with tampering for talking about him.

But a few of his potential new teammates were talking about the massive 6-foot-6-inch, 335-pound 10-year veteran.

“That’s a huge acquisition whenever that deal happens,’’ Ty Warren said. “I didn’t get to see him on film last year . . . but I remember seeing him a couple of years ago and that’s freakish talent.’’

Vince Wilfork called Haynesworth “a great player, a hell of a player. I had a chance to play in the Pro Bowl with him. I think he’s a great athlete.’’

ESPN reported that New England will send a fifth-round pick in 2013 to Washington in the trade. Haynesworth received $32 million from the Redskins in the first 14 months of the contract he signed in 2009. His base salary is to be $5.4 million for this year. The Patriots reportedly won’t guarantee any of that money.

Once news of the trade hit Twitter, opinions began flying. Most NFL observers believe that it is a low-risk, potentially high-reward move for New England: If Haynesworth falls in line and plays like he’s shown he can, the Patriots’ defense could be much improved. If he refuses to get with the program, Belichick wouldn’t hesitate to release him and the team would suffer a minimal loss.

As for the 33-year-old Ochocinco, who has seven 1,000-yard receiving seasons, there was no official announcement from the team, but the player himself tweeted, “God is so good,’’ as the reports of the trade came to light.

Though they may seem like an odd couple, Belichick and Ochocinco have long talked about their mutual admiration. They met when Belichick worked out the receiver, then Chad Johnson, in California before the 2001 draft. Their friendship was cemented at the 2006 Pro Bowl, when Belichick and his staff served as the AFC coaches.

Their relationship is built on a love of the game - Ochocinco is known for his scripted touchdown celebrations, but he doesn’t celebrate if he scores when his team is losing by a large margin. Before Cincinnati played New England at Gillette in the regular-season opener last year, Ochocinco commented that he would involve the End Zone Militia if he scored a touchdown, but the Bengals were down, 31-10, by the time he did late in the third quarter, and he simply walked back to the sideline afterward.

Ochocinco has not had any off-field problems. He is a social media pioneer among athletes - he has more than 2.3 million Twitter followers, and he often tweets that he’ll be at a movie theater within a couple of hours and the first 85 people to show up will watch the movie with him, on his dime.

So the perceived quiet in Foxborough earlier this week wasn’t really quiet at all - it was simply the calm before the storm.

Shalise Manza Young can be reached at syoung@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.

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