PITTSBURGH - The Cincinnati Bengals failed to explain why Chad Ocho Cinco, the wide receiver formerly known as Chad Johnson, was held out for violating team rules during their 27-10 loss in Pittsburgh on Thursday night.
The decision to bench Ocho Cinco was announced about 10 hours before kickoff and the Bengals said they would give more details after the game, but coach Marvin Lewis declined to discuss it.
“We deactivated him like we told you, and Chad will be back and should be fine and will hopefully get his treatment and be ready to go (Nov. 30 against Baltimore),” Lewis said.
Ocho Cinco apparently got into a dispute with a coach or coaches during a team meeting — normally offensive players meet beforehand with the offensive coordinator, in this case Bob Bratkowski — and was sent back to Cincinnati.
“He went to have a discussion with the coach but I don’t know if he walked out of the meeting,” fellow wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said.
Defensive lineman John Thornton also wasn’t sure what happened to cause the Bengals to bench one of their best players.
“I know he’s done worse,” Thornton said. “I think this was just a statement from coach (Lewis) at this kind of season we’re having. He needs everybody on the same page. He suspended him and told us about it and we all moved on. I don’t think it had a big effect on the game.”
Lewis wouldn’t speculate whether Ocho Cinco’s absence hurt an offense that did little after driving for a touchdown in the first quarter. The Bengals were outgained 364-208 while being limited to 11 first downs.
“I don’t know that the guy, that way, hurts you,” Lewis said. “Our other guys stepped up and got an opportunity to play and it’s good for them.”
There hasn’t been much good about the Bengals’ 1-9-1 season, and Lewis — under pressure for the team’s falloff after making the playoffs three seasons ago — agreed that, “We need to change how we’re getting things done.”
Whether that means dealing the controversy-causing Ocho Cinco or making any other player moves, Lewis wouldn’t say.
“Playing. I’m not talking about (changing) anything other than that,” Lewis said. “We need to make sure that we continue to develop our guys and do a good job of coaching and playing.”
Ocho Cinco had three touchdowns in two games recently, but otherwise has had a down season after making the Pro Bowl during five consecutive seasons.
“I’m sure he would have helped. But we lost eight games with him, so I don’t know how much,” Houshmandzadeh said. “But, of course, he would have helped. ... But they (the Bengals) did what they felt was best. It doesn’t matter what I think in situations like that.”
Ocho Cinco had ankle surgery in June and a shoulder injury in August — about the time he changed his name from Chad Johnson — and has not been as involved in the Bengals’ offense as much as in previous years. Houshmandzadeh has become the primary receiver, making at least six catches in eight consecutive games until being held to four receptions by Pittsburgh.
Houshmandzadeh leads the NFL with 77 catches, and has four touchdowns. Ocho Cinco, a downfield threat in previous years, has 41 catches, none for more than 22 yards. Ocho Cinco made eight catches for 52 yards during Pittsburgh’s 38-10 win in Cincinnati on Oct. 19.
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