The Full 90

Ochocinco made an 'honorary member' of Sporting KC

Updated: 2011-03-29T21:47:04Z

By RANDY COVITZ

The Kansas City Star

Chad Ochocinco’s trial with Sporting Kansas City did not result in a contract. And his Cincinnati Bengals are locked out as part of the NFL labor dispute.

Yet Ochocinco couldn’t be happier.

“Why wouldn’t I be? I’m living life,” Ochocinco said on Tuesday as the ESPN cameras packed up and left town and Sporting KC announced he could continue to train with its reserve team as an “honorary” member” of the organization.

Ochocinco, a six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, appeared in a match with the reserve team Monday as part of his six-day trial that is coinciding with the lockout of NFL players.

“I just played in a match for a professional soccer team,” Ochocino said. “It doesn’t get any better than that. What is everybody else (in the NFL) doing? … I’ve seen two people get in trouble with the law … I’m playing soccer … I can get better, stay fit, continue to stay active instead of being home on my butt.”

Ochocino, 33, was to travel home in Miami today, retrieve some belongings and return to Kansas City on Monday and spend the rest of the spring and summer in Kansas City, or at least until the NFL players and owners reach a new collective bargaining agreement.

He’s no hurry to get back to Cincinnati, where coach Marvin Lewis has been critical of Ochocinco’s foray into soccer, among other things, and where Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer has asked to be traded -- as soon as the labor impasse ends.

So Ochocinco is not losing any sleep over the lockout.

“I make so much money off the field, it doesn’t concern me at all,” Ochocinco said. “I don’t have time to be bickering back and forth with owners over revenue.”

Ochocinco has one more season left on his contract with the Bengals _ “unfortunately,” he said _ for $6 million.

“You know it’s bad there if the quarterback wants out,” he added. “So I don’t need to say anymore. I’m here to talk about soccer, not football.”

Ochocinco, who last played competitive soccer in high school, had an affinity for soccer as a youngster and showed his kicking ability for the Bengals when he booted an extra point after Cincinnati kicker Shayne Graham was injured in a 2009 preseason game.

However, during his tryout with Sporting Kansas City, his ball skills, not to mention soccer fitness, were lacking against pro soccer players, and the team could not justify offering him a contract. But Sporting KC not only recognized the media attention Ochocinco attracted, but believed he showed enough promise to at least train with the reserves.

“He’s been a pleasure to have here,” Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes said. “He’s progressed in the days he’s trained with us. We feel his stay here has been so good in so many ways that we offered him an opportunity to continue to work on his fitness while he’s waiting for the lockout to finish, and we made him an honorary member of Sporting Kansas City.

“He has been fantastic in all ways. In the locker room with the guys, and just with the staff and everyone else, it’s been a real pleasure.”

Ochocinco does not harbor hopes of working his way from the reserves to Sporting KC’s active fulltime roster.

“I’m not trying to play on the full roster,” he said. “This is the best of the best in the world. I’m not kidding myself. I just wanted to fulfill a dream of just being able to be out there on the pitch for a major league team, and I fulfilled that.

“Sporting kC went out of their way to make me an honorary member and allowed me to stay with the reserves. That’s ice cream on the cake.”

***

Sporting Kansas City confirmed it will host English Premier League club Newcastle United F.C. on Wednesday, July 20 in an international friendly at Livestrong Sporting Park.

The match will be included in all Sporting Kansas City season ticket packages.

To reach Randy Covitz, call 816-234-4796 or send e-mail to rcovitz@kcstar.com.

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