The Bengals have brought back Chris Henry.
Henry signed a contract with the Bengals Tuesday morning. Henry was exonerated in court of the assault charges that led to his release from the Bengals on April 3 but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has still suspended him for the first four games of this season.
The suspension will begin on Sept. 1, the first day of practice leading up to the Sept. 7 regular season opener at Baltimore. Henry will be eligible to return to full activity with the team on Sept. 29 with his first game being at Dallas on Oct. 5.
Henry missed the first eight games of last season due to NFL suspension as well as two games in 2006. The Bengals held him out of a third game in 2006 due to actions off of the field.
Henry has been arrested five times in three states on charges ranging from DUI to firearms since the Bengals drafted him in the third round in 2005.
During his career with the Bengals Henry has caught 88 passes for 1,370 yards and 17 touchdowns in 35 games. He caught 21 passes for 343 yards and two touchdowns last season.
The impetus of the re-signing has been the health of the Bengals’ receivers, namely starters T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson. Houshmandzadeh has been out of practice since the first week of training camp with a hamstring strain. Johnson suffered a shoulder sprain against Detroit and is out of the lineup indefinitely, although head coach Marvin Lewis said he expects Johnson to be ready for the season opener at Baltimore on Sept. 7.
Rookie Andre Caldwell also left the game against Detroit with what was termed as a sprained foot. He left the post-game locker room on crutches.
Henry's return is a clear indication that: 1) the Bengals are more worried about the health of Houshmandzadeh, Johnson and Caldwell than they’re letting on, 2) the team is less than thrilled with the other receivers on the roster. Or both.
What Lewis and the Bengals face with the return of Henry is criticism of turning away from the direction they took in the offseason. The Bengals spoke of distancing themselves with players of questionable character. Besides releasing Henry the Bengals also released Odell Thurman this offseason. Goodell has suspended Thurman for this season for his continued off-the-field troubles.
“I’m not interested in bringing him back,” said Lewis on July 22. “That wouldn’t be productive for our football team. You have to be a productive part to be an NFL player. There are responsibilities to being an NFL player; it’s a privilege, it’s not a right and there is a lot that comes with being an NFL player.”
When the subject of Henry coming back to the team failed to go away, resurfacing with a story on NFL.com, the league’s own Web site, Lewis still denied any want of the receiver.
“Oh, I wouldn’t put any stock into NFL.com,” said Lewis after practice on Aug. 13. “I don’t think it has legs because of anything. We need to get T.J. back and healthy, and keep working with the other guys.”