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Thursday, June 7, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Ochocinco released

By Mike Rodak

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After less than a year in New England, the Patriots decided to release wide receiver Chad Ochocinco on Thursday.

Arriving by trade shortly after the NFL lockout ended last summer, expectations were high for Ochocinco, who many thought needed a change of scenery after a decade with the Cincinnati Bengals. Ochocinco was known to have a good relationship with head coach Bill Belichick, and the outlandish pass-catcher took a slight pay cut to join the team.

Ochocinco, who referred to New England as "heaven" in the days after the trade, was slow to pick up the Patriots' offense. He started two of the first five games last season, but failed to surpass more than two catches in any contest, never re-establishing himself the big-play receiver he was earlier in his career.

By late last season, Ochocinco had been mostly phased out of the Patriots' offense, limited to just one offensive snap in the divisional playoffs against the Denver Broncos. He was also a healthy scratch for the team's AFC Championship win over the Baltimore Ravens.

While it would not have been a surprise if the Patriots chose to cut ties with Ochocinco after their loss in Super Bowl XLVI, the team instead gave him a second chance to learn the playbook. In late March, he took a pay cut from a $3 million base salary to a $925,000 salary for 2012, but was still due a $3 million base salary in 2013, the final year of his contract.

Now, more than two months later, Ochocinco's career in New England is over, although the details surrounding his departure are still vague. After missing the team's organized team activity on Thursday, initial reports stated that Ochocinco was in the facility on Thursday morning, only to leave shortly after. Adam Schefter reported that Ochocinco said he left to attend an eye doctor appointment.

Instead, Schefter reports that the Patriots spent most of Thursday attempting to trade Ochocinco, who they acquired for two late-round draft choices last July, the same day the team acquired defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth, whose career in New England also ended unceremoniously. The 34-year old receiver with diminishing production and an outspoken and often unpredictable personality likely proved a tough player to move.

With the Patriots adding veteran receivers Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney, and Donte' Stallworth this offseason, Ochocinco was buried on the team's depth chart. Whatever the final straw with Ochocinco may have been, the Patriots decided to accelerate what was becoming inevitable, and to release Ochocinco on Thursday.