Sometimes, where there’s smoke there’s fire.
A league source confirmed to colleague Greg A. Bedard that the Patriots have released receiver Chad Ochocinco.
Speculation has been building throughout the afternoon that something was afoot with the veteran receiver after he was not present for the team’s OTA session; a league source said Ochocinco did report to Gillette on Thursday morning, but then left “in a hurry” a short time later.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who earlier in the afternoon tweeted that Ochocinco missed Thursday’s OTA session to attend an eye doctor’s appointment, reported that the Patriots tried to trade Ochocinco, and when they had no takers, decided to release him instead.
The move ends what at first looked to have the makings of a very successful partnership – Ochocinco and coach Bill Belichick. Belichick had long expressed his fondness for Ochocinco as a player, and the two became friends more than a decade ago, when Belichick put the receiver, then Chad Johnson, through a pre-draft workout when he was coming out of Oregon State.
When it became clear after the 2010 season that Ochocinco’s time with the Bengals, who drafted him in the second round in 2001, had run its course, he was traded to New England after the lockout ended in the summer of 2011.
The Pats sent a fifth-round pick in 2012 and sixth-round pick next year to Cincinnati to acquire Ochocinco, and though he restructured his contract, he was still paid $5.75 million in salary and bonuses last year.
In return, he struggled mightily with the playbook, and gave the Patriots 15 catches in 15 regular-season games last year.
When teams were able to re-open their weight rooms for the offseason program in March, Ochocinco was a dedicated attendee, but on May 24, the first day reporters were allowed to watch OTA practice, Ochocinco was the only player to run a penalty lap (he jumped offsides), and Deion Branch was spotted waving him into the right spot on the line of scrimmage. So it looked like little had changed.
Now Ochocinco will become a free agent, just 10 months after declaring Foxborough to be “heaven.”