CINCINNATI — Chad Ochocinco’s prank started working even before it arrived. He’s got some of the Atlanta Falcons riled, just as he intended.
The Bengals receiver decided over the bye week that he needed to get back to talking trash and trying to back it up on the field against a defense out to get him. The defending AFC North champions are 2-3 and in danger of having their season quickly slip away.
Ochocinco’s cure? He shipped something to the Falcons defensive backs — T-shirts, supposedly — to get them revved for their game Sunday in Atlanta. He also plans to talk a lot of trash on the field against the Falcons (4-2).
"Maybe it’ll work, maybe it won’t," Ochocinco said. "It’s worked for me in the past. It’s worked for us in the past with me just doing something out the ordinary, and it’s helped and we’ll see how it goes."
Early in his career, the six-time Pro Bowl selection was known for getting under opponents’ skin by predicting wins, denigrating their players and even sending them gifts. He once sent the Cleveland Browns some Pepto-Bismol, saying they’d be sick after trying to cover him.
The Bengals’ offense has been average, and Ochocinco thinks it needs a little bit of his shenanigans to get it spiced up.
"I’m at my best and I think everyone feeds off my energy when I put the pressure on myself to perform based off of what I say," Ochocinco said. "Do I win all the time? No. But I win the majority of them when I get us going as a team, as a city, blah blah, the whole nine yards. The bulletin board material stuff, it forces me to continue to play at a high level.
"I just think maybe there has to be something drastic to get us going. You never know."
The Falcons hadn’t received the shipment before practice Wednesday. Defensive backs Brent Grimes, William Moore, Christopher Owens and Thomas DeCoud were noncommittal about Ochocinco’s on-the-way gifts.
Receiver Roddy White was not.
"I wouldn’t do that," White said. "That’s like, that’s not cool to do things like that. It’s just disrespectful. It’s going out on a limb and doing too much to do things like that. I know he’s a funny guy and stuff like that, but those guys take stuff like that personal."
White hopes the Falcons can run up the score to rub it in.
"I just don’t like it," he said. "I don’t like it, period. Those are my teammates. I’m going to defend them for anything. When we get out there on Sunday, I’m going to be out there with them. If they knock him out of the game, who cares?"
The edgy feelings aren’t confined to the players.
Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer will be returning to Atlanta for the first time since 2007, when he was on Falcons coach Bobby Petrino’s staff. Petrino left the Falcons when they were 3-10 that year to take over at Arkansas, angering everyone in the organization.
"I was never even there, as far as I am concerned," Zimmer said Wednesday. "I was never even there. When a coach quits in the middle of the year and ruins a bunch of peoples’ families and doesn’t have enough guts to at least finish out the year, I am not a part of that.
"You can put that in the Arkansas News-Gazette. I don’t really (care). I am serious. He is a coward. Put that in quotes."
Zimmer said he’s never been in a situation similar to the one in Atlanta. He joined the Bengals the following season.
"Most people in football have enough courage about them and enough fight to stick through something and not quit halfway through a year," Zimmer said. "It is cowardly.
"He came in and said he resigned, he would talk to us all at a later date, walked out of the office and no one has ever talked to him since. Not that anybody wanted to. He’s a gutless (person). Quote that."