This Chad Ochocincowas unrecognizable.
He looked and sounded like someone in a daze. Like someone who'd just died, only to realize he was still conscious and had successfully made it to the eternal happiness of the afterlife.
In his mind, maybe that's where he thinks he is.
Upon being traded to New England Thursday, he used his Twitter account to glorify God. Arriving here, he said he was welcomed with open arms by the team's father figure, owner Robert Kraft, and connected with Bill Belichick, his new head coach with whom he already had an established, mutually respectful relationship.
On this glorious, sunny Saturday, he compared Foxborough to God's kingdom.
"It's good to be in heaven. It feels really good," he whispered to a gaggle of sometimes overanxious reporters and photographers, in an uncharacteristically subdued voice.
Again, this wasn't the Ochocinco we're used to seeing.
Several times in his six-minute Q&A session, he used the word 'quietly' to describe how he planned to go about his business with the Patriots. The demonstrative, flamboyant, creative trash-talking receiver who fully embraces the social media universe seemed to take the definition literally as well as figuratively.
Even those standing directly beside him could scarcely hear what he was saying. What was unmistakable, however, was his message, which was evident through his body language.
He's still Ochocinco, but he's also a Patriot. That means he's a different man.
"It's a new chapter in my life and I'm happy to be here," he continued. "It is going to be a little quiet. You won't get the same Chad you are used to and I probably won't be talking to the media much. Probably not at all, really. I just want to play ball and ride the wave.
"I will always be me. It has been a part of my game to always be me, but there is a certain way the Patriots do it and it's easy for me. I've always been a chameleon so, I am going to blend in and do it the Patriot way, which is win. I think Bill, we had our talk and without him even having to saying anything- there is no need for some of the stuff I did before. There's no need for it."
"I think every player on this team, every person on this team," Belichick noted in post-practice remarks, "has their own individual personality. None us are the same, so that's probably a good thing."
But Ochocinco is about as different a personality as has ever put on a Patriots uniform in the Belichick era. Yet, Saturday, he sounded like a changed man. A reborn man, perhaps?
"Yeah," he agreed, "I guess that's a way to put it if you want to."
Or more like a man who has had an epiphany.
"Once I walked in here and Mr. Kraft and Belichick gave me my angel wings, I was set and I'm going to soar," he declared.
He hopes to spread his wings and use his gifted hands to snare passes from Tom Brady, to help the Patriots win football games. The team is banking on that, too, given Ochocinco's prolific history of performance in this league.
He's expecting it, as well, particularly now that he has one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time throwing him the ball.
"It's hard to maintain a high level of productivity when things are always up and down," he explained, referring to his previous years as a Bengal. "The thing about this place [is that] it's consistent. It's always been consistent on the offensive side of the ball and defensively, so that always me to be able to be consistent also.
"There is only so much that I can control and the position that I was in, in Cincinnati, I did the best I could to my ability, and I did it in sort of a noisy way and that says a lot for me – to be able to talk it and still walk it. To be able to come here, regardless of who is in [the lineup], they get it done here, regardless. I call it riding the wave; I am going to enjoy it."
"Tom and I are cool, we are really cool," Ochocinco added. "This has been a joy. I don't get to talk to him much except when we played him, but we have had conversations on and off the field. I respect him; he is the best at his craft. I've always called him a surgeon and it's going to be fun being one of his patients, so I am going to enjoy it.
"He knows what I can do already ... My job becomes that much easier because of him, because of my surroundings and there's nothing extra I have to do. That's it."
Just play football. Just be himself.
Is it impossible to imagine he can do both here in New England?
Faulk giving it another go
With the official re-signing of veteran running back and co-captain Kevin Faulk, as well as veteran Sammy Morris, the Patriots are now well-stocked, numbers-wise, at the ball carrier position.
So stocked that not all of them will make the team, no doubt.
The odds are even tougher for Faulk, given his advanced age for the position (entering his 13th NFL season) and the difficult reality that he's almost a year removed from major reconstructive knee surgery.
Faulk spoke to reporters after Saturday's practice – he didn't take part and can't until August 4 due to the new rules of the collective bargaining agreement. Physically, he said he's recovered from the injury, but he's not sure if he's moved past it psychologically yet.
"That's why I need to get back on the football field," he asserted. "I know physically I feel good, but mentally I want to get out there and see how it is getting hit, pushing and pulling against linebackers and stuff. And you know, that's just the process of it."
Faulk revealed that as soon as he suffered his injury, in Week 2 versus the Jets in New York last season, he knew he would make every effort to come back to football this year. It wasn't until just before the lockout began in March, however, that he felt secure he'd be able to do so as a Patriot.
"Honestly speaking, before the lockout started, Bill called me and told me, 'Look, Kevin, I want you on my team in 2011,' and that was motivation enough for me to go out and rehab my butt off and get ready for the season, whenever it may be and whenever it may come. So, that was pretty much enough for me.
"Right now," Faulk stated, "I can't do anything until August 4 and that's just another wall they put in front of me, but at the same time I'm going to move around it and wait until August 4."
We've still not seen Albert Haynesworth in a Patriots uniform since he was traded this week. And it remains unclear when we will.
Belichick was asked about the defensive lineman's status today. While his response was vague, he did indicate that Haynesworth's absence was not an August 4 condition.
"He's not quite ready to practice yet," said the coach.
A reporter then asked if the reason was injury-related.
"When he's ready, he'll be out there," came Belichick's response.
Second-year tight endAaron Hernandez, who wore jersey number 85 as a rookie, said he gladly relinquished the digits to his new teammate, Ochocinco (the former Chad Johnson who changed his last name to a Spanish version of the numbers 8 and 5).
As is often the case, NFL players who want specific numbers that are already taken reimburse their teammates quite handsomely for the honor. That wasn't the case with Hernandez, who did so willingly and at no cost.
"We're playing at a high level, so all of us have a decent amount of money, but I definitely should have, but I didn't and it was just a welcome to the team," Hernandez explained.
"I'm glad to have him. Hopefully we can get some big things out of him this year, like everybody else. And I thought he may look better and play better in 85 since that's his last name, so why not give it to him."
"I drive a Toyota Prius, so I was going to let him use my Prius on the weekends, and that's about the best I can do right now," Ochocinco offered. "I have some left over McDonald's coupons since I don't eat there anymore."
There was one catch, however (pun intended). Hernandez would only give up his 85 if he could get an acceptable number in return. He wound up with 81, the same jersey number he wore at the University of Florida.
"I obviously could have been like, 'No, I don't want to give it up,' but I'm not that type of person. There was 81, the jersey I wanted when I came here, but [Randy] Moss had it so it actually worked out perfectly."
Actually, 81 was already taken this summer, too, by rookie receiver Jeremy Ross. Hernandez wouldn't say, though, if he made a deal with the newcomer to get 81. Ross is now sporting 82.
For more news and notes from Saturday's practice, please visit the PFW blog.