Commentary

Will Chad Ochocinco tune out noise?

How he reacts to latest criticism will speak volumes on status with Patriots

Updated: September 15, 2011, 5:17 PM ET
By Mike Reiss | ESPNBoston.com

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- There is a scene in the documentary "Bill Belichick: A Football Life" in which the coach of the New England Patriots is addressing his team the day after a heartbreaking 2009 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

That was the game Belichick went for it on fourth-and-2, and he was explaining to players that he would never apologize for trying to win. He told players that they might hear things that he didn't have confidence in his defense. Nonsense, he said.

[+] EnlargeChad Ochocinco
AP Photo/Stephan SavoiaBill Belichick watches Chad Ochocinco during stretching before Wednesday's practice. The next few days could tell a lot about their relationship.

Belichick then told players to look closely at the sign on the door when they exit the facility, particularly one line that read: "Ignore the noise." That was going to be important on that "fourth-and-2" week.

Fast-forward to the present day, when there has been plenty of noise around Gillette Stadium. It's Chad Ochocinco noise.

Some of it has been generated by Ochocinco himself, who has previously acknowledged he's created a monster that attracts extra attention. With every 140-character Twitter post, Ochocinco further builds his personal brand. He knows exactly what he's doing every time he hits the "tweet" button to his 2.7 million followers, drawing more attention to himself, sometimes at the expense of the team he plays for.

But this isn't all Ochocinco.

The noise has intensified, in large part, because of the strong reaction of a beloved former Patriots player, Tedy Bruschi, now an analyst for ESPN. Bruschi was called the "perfect Patriot" by Belichick when he retired, and truth be told, he'd probably acknowledge that he still bleeds Patriots red, white and blue. Bruschi defines the often-talked-about "Patriot Way," which he lived for 13 years, and when he sees a mindset and mentality that runs counter to that winning culture, he won't hold back.

Reacting to an Ochocinco tweet about seeing Tom Brady put up "video game numbers" in Monday night's 38-24 win over Miami, Bruschi, appearing on sports radio WEEI, said Ochocinco better "drop the awe factor" and "stop tweeting and get in your playbook."

Some agree with Bruschi's take, while others say it's too harsh. But regardless of which side you might fall on, perhaps we can all meet at a middle ground and agree that this is a potential defining moment for Ochocinco as a Patriot in this sense: How he responds to this media firestorm will tell us if he can integrate into the team's way of doing business.

It was just a few weeks ago when Ochocinco said of the media, "I want you guys to critique the hell out of me, as I can also do to you. I hold no grudges. But as you fire upon me, I will fire back."

But the Patriots' way is to put down the weapon and hold that fire. Patriots who adopt Belichick's approach "ignore the noise" unless it can serve as motivaional fuel in some form, and this isn't one of those cases.

So it was notable that Ochocinco wasn't present Wednesday in the locker room during the time reporters were granted access, which was a change from his normal routine. He's usually a regular. It seems important to him to be liked by media members covering the team, and he opens himself up to a point that makes one easy to feel that way about him.

His staying away Wednesday and keeping his Twitter account inactive could be the first sign that Ochocinco gets the culture Belichick works hard to create in New England -- it's not about one player, but instead about the team. Whether Ochocinco can get on board with that remains to be seen.

Consider these words from Belichick on Wednesday when asked about the possibility Ochocinco could play a large role Sunday against the San Diego Chargers.

"All the players that participate in the game will have an important role in it, absolutely," he said. "It's not really my job to try to pad up individual statistics for any player on the team. I'm not really interested in that.

"The only statistic I really care about is the final score. That's what our goal is. I know everybody else wants to talk about and write about individual stats, and what each individual's production is, but I'm really concerned about the team's success. That's the way it will always be."

By all accounts, Ochocinco has done everything asked of him from a football perspective, showing up on time and working hard while proving to be dependable and fully committed.

But his judgment on outside-of-football stuff, and fully understanding how every tweet and self-promotional look-at-me act has a trickle-down effect on his new team, remains a work in progress.

That's why the next few days could tell us a lot about Ochocinco and the likelihood this "odd couple" has a chance of working out.

Can Ochocinco take Belichick's advice and ignore the noise?

Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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