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Chad Ochocinco is thrilled to be at dance, though volume is down

Receiver Chad Ochocinco’s selfish reputatihas been balanced out by public praise from several his teammates. | Mark Humphrey~AP

Receiver Chad Ochocinco’s selfish reputation has been balanced out by public praise from several of his teammates. | Mark Humphrey~AP

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The facts: 5:30 p.m.
at Lucas Oil Stadium,

TV: Ch. 5.

Line: Patriots by 3.

Updated: March 3, 2012 11:41AM

INDIANAPOLIS — Chad Ochocinco, one of the NFL’s most popular players, finally reached the Super Bowl. But certainly not in the way he — or most others — imagined.

Ochocinco leads the NFL with 3.2 million Twitter followers, yet he’s tied for 216th with just 15 catches during the 2011 regular season. He was inactive for the AFC Championship Game, and his last catch for the New England Patriots was Dec. 24 in a 27-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins.

No matter, Ochocinco said.

‘‘To get to this point quietly, most people call it bittersweet, but it’s a blessing,’’ he said. ‘‘People will play this game for years, for years, and many names, many greats, without having a chance to sniff the Super Bowl.

‘‘To be able to be here, regardless of how this season went, is a blessing, period.’’

Asked if he’d be torn if the Patriots win and he doesn’t play, he said, ‘‘Why would it be hard when you’re part of a team? I mean, there’s nothing hard about it at all.’’

He sounded somewhat convincing.

Last July, the Patriots traded fifth- and sixth-round picks to the Cincinnati Bengals for Ochocinco. He played in 15 games but had the least productive season of his career, catching 15 passes for 276 yards and one touchdown.

Not what was expected of a six-time Pro Bowl receiver who topped 1,000 receiving yards in seven of his 11 NFL seasons.

Regarded as a me-first player during his tenure with the Bengals, Ochocinco was respected by the Patriots for accepting his role and, by and large, embracing the “Patriot Way.”

‘‘Chad has worked hard every day. I’ve really loved having Chad on this team and being able to play with him,’’ Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. ‘‘I was excited to get him this year. I wished that he would have had a bigger role on this team. We’ve just had other guys who have played more snaps.’’

Added receiver Deion Branch, ‘‘I truly love playing with this guy.’’

With reporters surrounding him at a table Wednesday, Ochocinco noted he had ‘‘changed my way’’ and reached the Super Bowl.

‘‘What is it? What do you want to take? One hundred catches, 1,000 yards, and be at home enjoying watching from home?” he asked. ‘‘Or not have the same numbers and have a chance of playing on the biggest stage of your life? What do you want?

‘‘There’s one of them I’ve already done. This is something I’ve never done,” he said of being at the Super Bowl. ‘‘And I’m actually doing it. I’m not playing a video game.’’

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