The Miami Herald

Miami Dolphins give Chad Ochocinco a warm reception

Even though he made a wise crack about being bad with numbers when asked whether he could serve as the team’s No. 1 receiver, and joked about already developing “Brokeback Mountain chemistry” with his new teammates, Chad Ochocinco kept his first remarks in a Dolphins uniform Tuesday relatively brief and focused.

The 34-year old former six-time Pro Bowl receiver and reality TV star is out to prove he can still play like Chad Johnson.

“For me, it’s about getting back to the basics, going back to the root of how it all started, not as far as playing in Miami, but as far as how my game goes and getting back to what we’re all used to seeing,” said Johnson, who after averaging 80 catches for 1,162 yards and seven touchdowns from 2002 to 2010 in Cincinnati hardly made an impact in New England last season.

“I think I kind of lost that. I’m looking to go back to Chad Johnson, and just make it live again.”

If the way Ochocinco practiced Tuesday is any indication of what he has left in the tank, his career in Miami should last quite a bit longer than his first interview — which lasted just one minute 45 seconds and ended with him telling reporters: “I love you and enjoy the show.”

In the first of three back-to-back-to-back OTA practices for the team in Davie, Ochocinco showed flashes of brilliance in the eyes of teammates and onlookers.

Although he spent quite a bit of time on the sidelines speaking to coaches who were spoon-feeding him tips on the playbook, he worked in with the second team during team drills and made several nice catches. His best was a leaping grab down the sideline over cornerback Sean Smith, who is 6-3, 214-pounds and 10 years younger than Ochocinco, who is 6-1 and 192 pounds.

Smith said afterward that Ochocinco displayed excellent footwork and added, “you can tell by his releases and the stems on his routes he’s a definitely a vet who still knows how to weave” through coverage.

Not in decline

“The things I’ve seen of him, moving around the field, he’s still very quick out of his breaks. That’s usually the No. 1 decline for an older receiver, and I don’t see that,” said quarterback David Garrard, who played with Ochocinco on the 2009 Pro Bowl team.

“And I definitely don’t see it with the hands, because he’s making some great catches, going up over DBs and making the catch. Those are the things you want to see him do, and he’s still doing it.”

First-year coach Joe Philbin estimated Ochocinco has missed the implementation of 78 percent of the team’s new West Coast offensive scheme and will have to play catch-up. But that’s something Garrard thinks won’t be a problem for his new receiver because Miami’s offense is flexible for receivers.

Reports out of New England — where he had just 15 catches in as many games for 276 yards and one touchdown — were that Ochocinco’s drop in production was due to his struggle to pick up the Patriots’ playbook.

“It’s very surprising to me he didn’t have more productivity in New England,” Garrard said. “I’m sure a lot of that had to do with not being in tune with that system.

“Here, we play football. It’s run this route, get open. We can change plays, we can change routes which is another good thing. If we see a matchup over there with him, we can give him an individual route and just go win.”

Known best for his wild touchdown celebrations from his days in Cincinnati and outspokenness on the field and Twitter, a few of Ochocinco’s new teammates said Tuesday they are hoping he becomes that guy again.

The Dolphins could surely use a dependable target. Other than Ochocinco, Miami doesn’t have a receiver on the roster who has more than 820 yards receiving or five touchdown catches in a single season.

“I haven’t had a chance to watch the tape, but it’s good to have him,” Philbin said. “He’s learning more about the offense everyday. We’ll se how he competes. We’ll see how he fits in, what kind of teammate he is, what kind of chemistry he brings to the ballclub.”

This and that

• A Liberty City native and graduate of Miami Beach High, Ochocinco professed a life-long love for the Dolphins Tuesday.

“It’s been a childhood dream of mine growing up watching the Marks brothers [Mark Duper and Mark Clayton], watching Dan [Marino], some of those guys,” he said. “It’s awesome. ... I’ve always played Madden, and I’ve always used the Dolphins no matter where I was or where I was playing. To be able to wear the teal and orange, it’s a pretty good feeling.”

• Although Garrard worked a lot with the first team Tuesday, Philbin and Garrard both said not to read too much into it. Matt Moore was with the second team and rookie Ryan Tannehill was the No. 3 quarterback. Philbin said other quarterbacks will get a shot with the starters, but he has liked the velocity and accuracy he has seen from Garrard so far.

• The Dolphins have given players iPads with the team playbook and game film to replace their traditional three-ring binders.




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