CINCINNATI - Chad Ocho Cinco fessed up: He kissed the coach.
The Cincinnati Bengals receiver acknowledged on Wednesday that he leaned into coach Marvin Lewis and gave him a peck on the cheek during a 31-22 loss in Dallas. He said it was the first time he’d ever kissed a coach.
“It was probably the last,” he added.
What brought this on?
The Pro Bowl receiver was struggling through another afternoon of double coverages and missed chances on Sunday. He had only three catches for 43 yards as the Bengals fell to 0-5. When he came to the sideline at one point, Lewis reminded him to stay positive.
“He whispered something in my ear that I really liked, so I kissed him,” Ocho Cinco said.
The receiver leaned in as if he was going to say something into Lewis’ left ear, then planted a quick one on his cheek. It was reminiscent of the way former Steelers linebacker Joey Porter kissed coach Bill Cowher after he returned an interception for a touchdown during a game in 2006.
Ocho Cinco said the inspiration for his peck came from an exchange with Lewis after a play.
“He just said, ’Keep your head in the game, stay focused, blah blah blah,”’ the receiver said. “And he said, ’Smile!’ This little thing coach Lewis and I have: When things aren’t going right, he just looks at me and says ’smile.’ Whatever’s going on, it goes right away.
“It’s a little thing we’ve got going, so it’s pretty cool. It’s kind of been able to keep myself from getting angry, from getting mad, from getting frustrated. Smile. And I do the same to him when he’s out there screaming in practice or something don’t go right in the game. I’ll just walk by him and just say, ’Smile!”’
There’s not much reason for the Bengals to smile these days.
The Bengals are off to their worst start since 2002, when they finished a franchise-worst 2-14 and coach Dick LeBeau was fired, opening the way for Lewis to take over. Their offense has been one of the league’s worst, unable to run or pass consistently.
Chris Perry leads the team in rushing with 239 yards and a paltry 2.8-yard average. Next on the team’s rushing list: quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick and Carson Palmer, by virtue of their scrambles.
Ocho Cinco changed his name in the offseason — he used to be Chad Johnson — and tried to get traded. It didn’t work. He also had ankle surgery shortly before training camp began, and slightly separated his left shoulder during the preseason.
With the Bengals unable to run, defenses have focused on stopping the pass. Ocho Cinco has only 14 catches for 159 yards and one touchdown, well below his norm. Palmer has been under heavy pressure in most games, providing little time for receivers to get open.
Ocho Cinco turned playful Wednesday when asked why he thinks he’s not getting more passes thrown his way.
“For those who don’t know why I’m not getting the ball, I have my own little philosophy on what’s going on,” he said. “And I broke it down like this: Never, ever, ever, ever go against the monster, because the monster always wins. Get it? So y’all put that in your own perspective and you’ll understand where I’m coming from and why things are going the way it’s going now.”
It was a veiled reference to owner Mike Brown, who refused to trade him in the offseason. Asked who he was referring to, the receiver said, “It’s hard to get to him. He’s really high.”
Then he added, “I’m just playing (around).”
The receiver has done a lot less playing around this year, refraining from baiting opponents or calling attention to himself during games. He didn’t even celebrate his only touchdown.
Lewis laughed loudly when asked if Ocho Cinco has done a better job with his demeanor this season.
“He’s trying his very best,” Lewis said. “He’s working hard at it.”
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