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Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Will Dolphins let 'Ocho be Ocho'?

By James Walker

I have gone over the good and bad of the Miami Dolphins signing of colorful receiver Chad Ochocinco to a one-year contact Monday. But one thing I haven't touched on is Ochocinco's personality -- or lack thereof in 2011.

Here is some personal background: I've covered Ochocinco in some capacity since 2004. The Cincinnati Bengals were my first NFL beat eight years ago when Ochocinco was growing with quarterback Carson Palmer and entering his prime. I eventually switched to the Cleveland Browns but kept close tabs on the Bengals, who were in-state rivals and played twice a year. I also covered Ochocinco last year with the Patriots.

Chad Ochocinco
Chad Ochocinco finished with just 15 catches in one season with the Patriots.
I've seen Ochocinco up close at his best (Bengals) and at his worst (Patriots). And I firmly believe he's is one of those players who must be a free spirit and let his personality show to be at his best.

The "Patriot Way" obviously doesn't work for Ochocinco. It's hard for him to stay quiet, and if he does, you're taking away his edge that's made him successful in his career. Ochocinco also can be a freelancer on the field, which is something Palmer worked through in Cincinnati. But quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick were not going to let that fly in New England.

But how will things work in Miami?

Will the Dolphins let "Ocho be Ocho" in the first year under head coach Joe Philbin? Miami is trying to establish a new program, and Ochocinco saying and doing zany things could make for a circus atmosphere. It was that way in Cincinnati when Ochocinco would guarantee victories, change his last name and get fined four creative touchdown celebrations. But Bengals coach Marvin Lewis found the right balance and got the best out of him on Sundays. He is not a bad teammate. Ochocinco is just different and has much more personality than most people.

If Ochocinco is told to shut up, like he was in New England, Miami probably won't get the best of what he has left. Philbin might have a hard time figuring that balance out in his first year. It's not an easy task for any head coach, let alone a rookie.

Personally, I don't think Ochocinco is washed up. Sure, he's no longer in his Pro Bowl prime. But Ochocinco is better than the 15 receptions he had last season.

The key will be if the Dolphins are able handle Ochocinco's free spirit -- on the field and in the locker room.