CINCINNATI -- Chad Ochocinco's prank started working even before it arrived. He has some of the Atlanta Falcons riled, just as he intended.
The Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver decided over the bye week that he needed to go 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 from them.
Ochocinco's cure? He shipped something to the Falcons' defensive backs -- T-shirts, supposedly -- to rev them up 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 of 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 this season, and Ochocinco believes it needs a little bit of his shenanigans to spiced up things.
"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.
But wide receiver Roddy White wasn't pleased about Ochocinco's antics.
"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."
"I just don't like it," White 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 return to Atlanta for the first time since 2007, when he was on then-coach Bobby Petrino's Falcons staff. Petrino left Atlanta when the team was 3-10 that year to take over at the University of Arkansas, angering everyone in the Falcons' 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 has never been in a situation similar to the one in Atlanta. He came to Cincinnati 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 (bleep). Quote that."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press