- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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INDIANAPOLIS -- One year ago Chad Ochocinco was at Cowboys Stadium for Super Bowl media day with a television crew and a microphone in hand. Working for the Ochocinco News Network, the receiver, then with the Cincinnati Bengals, approached Greg Jennings of the Green Bay Packers with puppy dog eyes.
"Man, what does this feel like?" Ochocinco said to a smiling Jennings at the podium. Jennings responded that being in the Super Bowl was the best feeling in sports.
Ochocinco was happy for Jennings but envious of his position. The 34-year-old receiver was still under contract with the Cincinnati Bengals and never won a playoff game. Time was running out to make it to the big stage, and Ochocinco realized he may never experience what Jennings was feeling at Super Bowl XLV.
Fast forward to Tuesday: One year later, Ochocinco is back at Super Bowl media day. This time he's finally a participant in Super Bowl XLVI with the AFC champion New England Patriots.
But the version of Ochocinco at Lucas Oil Stadium on Tuesday was not what many expected. "Ochocinco 2.0" was quiet, humbled and almost shy about his Super Bowl experience.
"I'm learning, experiencing, becoming a sponge and learning the Patriot way," Ochocinco said in a low tone. "That's it."
Ochocinco claimed over the summer he made it to football heaven after the Patriots and Bengals agreed to a trade in exchange for a fifth-round pick in April and a sixth-round pick in 2013. But things haven't gone as planned for Ochocinco.
The six-time Pro Bowl receiver was expected to bring big plays back to New England's offense. Instead, troubles fitting into a new scheme resulted in just 15 receptions for 276 yards this season. Ochocinco only played one snap in two playoffs game.
These are much different times for Ochocinco. The center of attention now lurks in the shadows, and the most surprising thing is he's fine with it. When asked what he learned about this season in New England, Ochocinco responded, "That I can shut the [expletive] up."
But you can see it in Ochocinco's face that he wishes he could do more to help the team. The Patriots are in the Super Bowl mostly without his contributions.
Yet, this week teammates applauded Ochocinco for his efforts. He was universally described as the model teammate and did everything that was asked of him. The results simply haven't showed on the field.
"He's been a true professional this year through and through," said Patriots receiver and team captain Matthew Slater. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. I already did coming into the season. He's handled everything and the changes and all that. He's a true professional."
Added, Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien said, "He's trying to get better every week, and we have to see on Sunday. But I've been very, very proud to be associated with Chad. He's a good guy and he's accepted his role."
There was a large media gathering waiting for the entertaining and zany Ochocinco to show up. But he didn't bite.
Ochocinco was asked about his time in Cincinnati, not producing in New England, being in the Super Bowl for the first time. But Ochocinco seemed genuine in keeping the attention away from him and on the team, which is a change from previous years.
The flamboyant, outspoken receiver didn't even get his own podium for media day, which was a surprise.
Ochocinco didn't care.
"I don't really need my own podium. I have my own podium with my phone," Ochocinco said of his popular Twitter account. "I can reach three million people faster than anyone can here."
New England teammate Brian Waters understands Ochocinco's transition.
Waters, 34, also is a six-time Pro Bowler who joined the Patriots this summer. Waters spent his entire career with the Kansas City Chiefs and, like Ochocinco, never won a playoff game. But Waters learned quickly that if you buy into the Patriot way of doing things, you will get results. Waters and Ochocinco combine for 23 years of NFL experience and both have a chance to win their first Super Bowl ring.
"There’s so many guys on this team individually that are stars in their own right -- I mean superstars in their own right," Waters explained. "Yet still, week after week, we see so many guys take the role that is given to them. Even if that weekly role is not being the star that week, they take it with pride."
So far the season has been a wash. But could Ochocinco have a chance at Super Bowl stardom? It seems like a pipe dream, based on his production. Yet stranger things have happened in this big game.
Ochocinco, who averaged less than one reception per game, may get playing time this week due to the left ankle injury of Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots run a base, two-tight end set on offense. But New England may need to run more three-receiver sets against the New York Giants if Gronkowski doesn't play or is limited this Sunday. Ochocinco has a chance to get reps with Julian Edelman as the third receiver if Ochocinco has a good week of practice.
Either way, Ochocinco is happy to be in his first Super Bowl regardless of his role Sunday.
"Some play their whole NFL career and never get to the big dance," Ochocinco said. "So many goals before that, I accomplished all those goals and this is the last one -- to get on this stage and have a chance to win a ring."
Ochocinco is finally in the big game, although not the way he envisioned it. But nothing has ever been conventional for the colorful receiver -- and that includes his 11-year journey to Super Bowl XLVI.