Saturday, July 30, 2011
Aaron Hernandez relinquishes No. 85
By Mike Rodak ESPNBoston.com
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- For well-established veterans, their identity is often tied to their jersey number. When these players join new teams, it is customary that players further down the pecking order will relinquish that number, often for a monetary sum.
For Chad Ochocinco, who arrived Friday in Foxborough, his number is more than just his brand: It's his last name.
Aaron Hernandez (right) gave Chad Ochocinco No. 85 for free, although Ochocinco said he would have offered the use of his Prius and some leftover McDonald's coupons.
Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who possessed No. 85, could have held out for the best offer from Ochocinco. Instead, Hernandez let his No. 85 jersey pass to the former Bengals receiver for free.
"We're playing at a high level, so all of us have a decent amount of money. I definitely should have [asked for compensation], but I didn't," Hernandez said, laughing. "It was just a welcome to the team. ... I thought he may look better and play better in 85, because that's his last name. So why not give it to him?"
Ochocinco considered the gesture Hernandez's way of welcoming him.
"Nothing [exchanged]. It was Mr. Hernandez's way of greeting me here. He gave me the number, I didn't have to pay anything," he said.
"I just shook his hand and said, 'Thank you.' I was probably going to give Mr. Hernandez -- I drive a Toyota Prius -- so I was going to let him use the Prius on the weekend. That's the best I can do right now, and I have some leftover McDonald's coupons."
Hernandez, in his return to practice Saturday morning, donned a No. 81 jersey, worn by wide receiver Randy Moss last season, and undrafted rookie receiver Jeremy Ross this training camp.
"I had a chance to get my college number  back, and [Ochocinco] obviously wanted 85," Hernandez said. "It wasn't a problem. So I thought he deserved it and should get it."
Ochocinco most likely was ready to make a financial offer to the second-year tight end, so Hernandez's generosity surely came as a surprise.
"As soon as [Ochocinco] came in, he was smiling, so I knew he was going to talk to me about the number," Hernandez said. "I obviously could have [said]: 'No, I don't want to give it up.' But I'm not that type of person. [No.] 81 was the jersey that I wanted when I came here, but [Randy] Moss had it, so it actually worked out perfectly."
Mike Rodak covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com. Information from ESPNBoston.com's Chris Forsberg was used in this report.