Is this the end for Chad Ochocinco?

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Is this the end for Chad Ochocinco?

From Comcast SportsNet
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- The New England Patriots released receiver Chad Ochocinco on Thursday, cutting loose the six-time Pro Bowl selection after one season in which he was more active on Twitter than on the field. "Thoroughly enjoyed the oppurtunity to play for the Patriot' organization... fans were ... wicked awesome, I wish all of you the best," he tweeted at about the same time the team was announcing he had been released. "I'm healthy n living life, I'll be fine," he wrote on Twitter, where he had changed his job description to "UNEMPLOYED BLACK GUY" and posed a photo of himself sitting on a suitcase at the airport, hitchhiking. Ochocinco, 34, played in 15 games in his only season with the Patriots, starting three and catching 15 passes for 276 yards. He caught one pass in the Super Bowl as New England lost 21-17 to the New York Giants. His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said he is "in the process of gauging interest from potential teams." During the playoffs, Patriots coach Bill Belichick described Ochocinco as a hard worker who "made a very good effort to do everything we've asked him to do on and off the field." Ochocinco said the shift from star receiver to barely contributing role player was a struggle. But it paid off with his first trip to the Super Bowl -- as a player, not as a gadfly asking questions on media day to those actually participating in the game. "I'm happy, but the competitive side of me is (angry). Does that make sense?" he said before the team left for Indianapolis. "I handled myself with the utmost professionalism. I busted my (butt), didn't pout. That's what I do: Give me the rock!' But I didn't do what people thought I would do. Even I thought I was going to do it." Drafted in the second round by Cincinnati from Oregon State, Ochocinco spent 10 seasons with the Bengals and reached the Pro Bowl five straight years from 2003-07 and again in '09. He was the first player in NFL history to lead the conference in receiving four consecutive years. But Ochocinco -- who changed his name from Chad Johnson as a nod to his uniform number, 85 -- was perhaps better known for his antics that sometimes annoyed his teammates, coaches -- and even commissioner Roger Goodell, whom he called "Dad." He predicted victories, sent gifts to opposing locker rooms and invited fans to help him think up new end zone antics. His touchdown celebrations -- using a pylon as a golf club, performing CPR on the football, doing a jig, donning a Hall of Fame jacket -- led to repeated fines and an NFL crackdown. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis grew so frustrated that he once called him "Ocho Psycho." Ochocinco also appeared as a contestant on "Dancing With the Stars" and hosted a cable dating show. Under the guise of the online Ochocinco News Network, he attended the Super Bowl as a reporter for two years, asking questions of the teams during media sessions and even grilling Goodell last year on the prospects of avoiding a lockout. Last month, he posted online an open letter to Goodell to support the commissioner in the wake of Junior Seau's suicide, writing "no one is showing any support, I figured I would be the first." In his career, Ochocinco has caught 766 passes for 11,059 yards and 67 touchdowns.

After winter of taking heat, Cubs still have Joe Maddon's back

After winter of taking heat, Cubs still have Joe Maddon's back

MESA, Ariz. — It only took 21 minutes into spring training — or the first press conference on the day pitchers and catchers officially reported to Arizona — before Joe Maddon listened to another question about all the heat he took for his World Series Game 7 decisions.

More than 2,000 miles away at Yankee camp in Florida last week, Aroldis Chapman told the Chicago Sun-Times that he "was just being truthful" when he used the conference call to announce the biggest contract ever for a closer — five years and $86 million — to inform the New York media that Maddon misused him during the playoffs. Nothing lost in translation there.

Miguel Montero finally declared a ceasefire on Monday night, getting the sit-down meeting the Cubs felt should go longer than the standard meet and greet after the veteran catcher's jarringly critical comments on WMVP-AM 1000 (if only because it happened on the same day as the championship parade and Grant Park rally).

"It's such an unusual situation," general manager Jed Hoyer said, "because we won the World Series, and theoretically you think that people would be really happy."

As ex-Cub manager Dale Sveum might say: "Ya think?"

Ending the 108-year drought might lead Maddon's Hall of Fame plaque someday, but it also led to waves and waves of second-guessing and speculation about how it might impact his clubhouse credibility. But with Maddon and Montero declaring their Andreoli Italian Grocer summit a success, gonzo strength and conditioning coordinator Tim Buss cruising onto the field in a Ferrari for the first wacky stunt of 2017 and Cactus League games beginning on Saturday, it's time to remember that the Cubs still have their manager's back.

"Everyone says they don't see or read anything," pitcher Jake Arrieta said. "We see and hear a lot of the stuff. But I just think that critics are going to find holes in something always.

"Joe was our leader all year last year. He obviously set the tone in spring training and gives us all these freedoms that help us play the way we played. So the people that matter — and know what Joe's about — are on the same page with his philosophies.

"The way he expresses himself to us is the most important thing. And we stand behind him. We trust that he's going to do what's in our best interest. And we know that any decision he makes is geared towards trying to help us win."

Within the last two seasons, the Cubs have won 200 games, five playoff rounds and their first World Series title since the Theodore Roosevelt administration. Maddon readily admits that the scouting and development wings of Theo Epstein's front office did most of the heavy lifting and credits the strong coaching staff he largely inherited. Spending more than $475 million on free agents like Jon Lester and Ben Zobrist certainly helped.

But all this doesn't happen without Maddon and the environment he created. The Cubs Way absolutely needed a ringmaster for this circus.

Arrieta developed into a Cy Young Award winner. Kyle Hendricks transformed into an ERA leader. Kris Bryant burst onto the scene as a Rookie of the Year and the National League MVP. Addison Russell became an All-Star shortstop by the age of 22. Maddon didn't prejudge Javier Baez, immediately appreciating the dazzling array of skills and super-utility possibilities.

Surprised by the Maddon backlash?

"Yes and no," All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. "Because there needs to be a story. But what he did — people who are real involved know that since Day 1, he came in and he set the tone.

"He completely flipped the way people think, the way we believe, and everyone has bought into it. The credit he deserves — he gets a lot of it — but I don't think he gets enough of it. Because he lets me be me. He lets Javy be Javy.

"Willson (Contreras), Kris and Addie — everyone has their different personalities. He understands that. And it's not easy to do."

It's such an impossible job, at times, that even Cubs officials and players have acknowledged their frustrations with some of Maddon's in-game decisions and communication gaps. This can't just be written off as a media creation. But imagine the grumbling if the Cubs didn't have a leader with seven 90-win seasons and three Manager of the Year awards on his resume.

"We have a competitive group of guys," Hoyer said. "Every guy wants to be on the field at the right time. Every guy wants to be on the roster. Every guy wants to pitch in winning games.

"That's not realistic sometimes. It comes from a great place. It doesn't come from a place of selfishness. It comes from a place of: 'I want to contribute to winning.'

"The meetings we've had have been awesome. Our camp is unbelievably focused. We are just as focused as last year. I really don't look at it as a negative."

The last word from Maddon, who turned 63 this month and has a $25 million contract, a wide range of off-the-field interests and the championship ring that will make him a legend in Chicago forever, no matter what kind of heat he took this winter.

"Stuff like that doesn't bother me at all," Maddon said. "Regardless of what people may have thought — like any other game that I worked all year long — I had it planned out like that before the game began. So it wasn't anything I tried to do differently game in progress. Had I not done what I thought I was supposed to do — then I would have second-guessed myself.

"So, no, I have no problem with that. I really don't mind the second-guessing from anybody. I kind of encourage it. Please go ahead and do it, because I'll take that kind of second-guessing after winning a World Series on an annual basis. Thank you very much."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Is Jonathan Toews' the Blackhawks' MVP?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Is Jonathan Toews' the Blackhawks' MVP?

Chris Emma (670TheScore.com), Chris Hine (Chicago Tribune) and national college football analyst Anthony Herron join Kap on the panel.  The guys discuss if Jonathan Toews is the Blackhawks’ MVP so far this season, whether a Jimmy Butler trade to the Celtics makes sense and why Rob Manfred is focused on shaving seconds off of the length of games.

Plus with Jay Cutler heading out the door, who will replace him?  And should Northwestern be on the NCAA Tournament bubble after losing again to the Illini?