Chad Ochocinco apparently has plans for the Cincinnati Bengals game against the San Diego Chargers today. Plans for some of his trademark showiness, the kind the NFL is tracking him for like he's carrying state secrets.
But unlike his usual showmanship and attention-grabbing antics, this time Ochocinco is doing something fairly noble. He wants to wear Chris Henry's jersey No. 15, according to reports, for the game as a memorial after his troubled teammate died this week in a bizarre incident with his fiancee.
The Uniform Police already have their sirens warmed up for this, most likely. But for once, Ochocinco won't have to bear the brunt of punishement, should it come, out of his own ample coffers.
According to George Atallah, Assistant Executive Director with the NFL Players Association, the union has Chad's back:
"NFLPA will cover any fine levied on Chad Ochocinco imposed by the league and match it with a gift to our Chris Henry memorial fund."
For it's part, the league that prohibits joy or fun in any way has yet to tender an opinion on what action it will take for a show of respect after the tragic death of a teammate. The NFL does have a history with coming down on this sort of thing, though. When Peyton Manning tried a less showy memorial for Johnny Unitas in 2002 after the legendary Colts QB died of a heart attack, the league clamped down with threats of a fine in the neighborhood of $25,000, so Manning backed off.
"Somebody's passed away. I don't want to create a controversy over it,'' Manning said. "I did talk to one of (Unitas') sons, Joe, last night. He said he thought that it would be great, he'd love it. But the league called Bill this morning and said absolutely not. It would result in a horrendous fine, so Bill just said that he would recommend that I don't do it.''
A similar situation occurred after Walter Payton passed away in 1999. Many players around the league wanted to pay some sort of tribute to the Hall-of-Famer, but were denied for the same reason: only the player's own team can have a show on the unifor, usually in the form of a patch or marking.
So Ochocinco has a loophole since Henry was a Bengal. But changing jerseys, especially for a player the NFL is just waiting to pounce on, may be pushing it. For his part, Ochocinco has yet to care much about the league's draconian rules.