Even with the additions of Terrell Owens(notes) and Adam Jones(notes) to a roster that includes tweet-happy reality star Chad Ochocinco(notes), there’s yet to be a sign of dissension among the Cincinnati Bengals.
The New England Patriots might not be able to say the same.
A key holdout and an uncertain future for Tom Brady(notes) and Randy Moss(notes) have dominated the days leading up to the season for New England, which hopes to put any potential distractions aside for Sunday’s opener at Gillette Stadium against Cincinnati.
The Patriots and Bengals won their respective divisions in 2009, going 10-6 and earning a home playoff game before being bounced in the wild-card round.
While New England had 12 draft picks to strengthen its roster, Cincinnati made a splash in free agency. The Bengals signed the troubled Jones in May and the previously unwanted Owens in late July, adding two players that have spent their share of time in the tabloids to a roster that already includes the colorful Ochocinco.
Owens and Ochocinco each have reality shows airing on VH-1, will launch “The T.Ocho Show” on Versus in October and are referring to themselves as “Batman and Robin.” Cincinnati’s lone concern, of course, was that there’d be enough looks from quarterback Carson Palmer(notes) to satisfy both and boost the NFL’s 26th-ranked passing offense from a year ago.
So far, so good.
“A lot of people are worried about the attitude and are we going to be able to coexist,” Ochocinco said. “People have to understand: He and I are close friends off the field, with the same goal in mind. The ego thing and all that is set aside. We want to win, period. That window of opportunity for myself, that window of opportunity for him is closing.
“And if it’s going to happen, this is the year for it to happen.”
The only trouble to come from Marvin Lewis’ club so far was courtesy of an Ochocinco tweet. The NFL’s leading receiver since 2002 with 9,623 yards was fined $25,000 for posting comments to his Twitter account during a preseason game.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick joked Wednesday that he doesn’t follow Ochocinco’s tweets, but Belichick may have some more serious problems heading into the opener.
Brady is reportedly close to a four-year deal, but in recent days the lack of a new contract for Moss has come to the forefront. Moss told CBSSports.com this week that he felt “not wanted,” an idea that Brady certainly doesn’t subscribe to.
“I want him. He knows that. I tell him every day,” Brady said. “… There’s only one Randy Moss that would ever play this game. He’s probably the greatest downfield receiver in the history of the NFL.”
Moss didn’t practice Wednesday due to an apparent illness.
The expected return of one of the league’s best possession receivers should give Brady a boost as he embarks on his second season since tearing his ACL. Wes Welker(notes) suffered the same injury in the last year’s regular-season finale but hopes to be on the field Sunday.
If Welker is good to go, New England’s biggest injury issues are on the other side of the ball. Defensive end Ty Warren(notes) suffered a season-ending hip injury in the preseason while cornerback Leigh Bodden(notes), who tied for the team lead with five interceptions in 2009, went on injured reserve with a knee injury.
Ochocinco called Bodden one of the toughest cornerbacks he’s faced in his career.
“They play football just like I play football,” Ochocinco said. “I’m sure their coaches will put them in a position to be able to make plays, so I’m going to approach this game very humbly. There’s not too many times I play against the Patriots and have enormous games.”
Ochocinco has 14 receptions and one touchdown in three meetings with New England since 2001, all losses. Brady completed 69.0 percent of his passes and threw seven touchdowns in those victories.
He could have his hands full with this Bengals secondary, however. Leon Hall(notes) and Johnathan Joseph(notes) give Cincinnati one of the top corner tandems in the league, a position that Jones - who will also return punts - should bolster.
Brady might not get much time to throw if Antwan Odom(notes) has his way. The fifth-year defensive end had eight sacks in six games in 2009 before tearing his Achilles’ tendon, but he’s healthy again.
“They do bring a lot of pressure,” Brady said. “We played them in the preseason last year and they were really good. I thought we came out of that game thinking, ‘Man, that team really played us hard and had a really good defense.’”
New England has won six consecutive season openers.