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Ochocinco humbled with Patriots, winds up in Super Bowl

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Chad Ochocinco is going to the Super Bowl again, and this time he'll be in uniform, answering questions, instead of causing a commotion by asking them.

He might even get on the field.

The Patriots receiver is returning to the NFL's title game, changed but not chastened since his time as a spotlight-seeking superstar who crashed the big party two years running as the lead correspondent for the "Ochocinco News Network." After a decade of losing in Cincinnati -- and having too much fun doing it -- Ochocinco swallowed his considerable ego to fit in better in New England, a franchise that likes its players boring.

The payoff: a trip to the Super Bowl for a player who had never won a postseason game.

"It's been a learning experience; that's what this has been. This had been one of the most humbling experiences I've ever been in," Ochocinco said Thursday as he prepared for the Feb. 5 game against the New York Giants in Indianapolis. "This is one of the first times I've been about doing exactly what everyone told me to do. It wasn't about the numbers. It wasn't about money. It wasn't about me."

Does he regret the trade-off?

"No!" he said with an expletive and a smile, "because I've done the other thing over and over."

"I'm happy, but the competitive side of me is (angry)," he said. "Does that make sense?"

Little about Ochocinco's time in New England does.

A six-time Pro Bowl selection who had more than 1,000 receiving yards in a seven-year span, Ochocinco was acquired by the Patriots in a trade over the summer, but he has struggled to find a place in the offense, catching just 15 passes for 276 yards and one touchdown this season -- all career lows.

During the playoffs, he has been even more invisible. He was on the field for only one play in the divisional playoff game against the Denver Broncos. Last week, after missing practice to be at his father's funeral, he was on the inactive list for the AFC Championship Game against the Baltimore Ravens.

"I handled myself with the utmost professionalism," Ochocinco said. "I busted my (butt), didn't pout -- that's what I do: `Give me the rock!' But I didn't do what people thought I would do. Even I thought I was going to do it."

But even as he left him to stew on the sidelines, Patriots coach Bill Belichick had no complaints about Ochocinco.

"Chad has worked hard," the coach said. "He's made a very good effort to do everything we've asked him to do on and off the field."

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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