Henry and Lewis Meet the Media

Four months after releasing WR Chris Henry the Bengals have brought the talented but troubled player back for another opportunity. He and head coach Marvin Lewis spoke about this latest (and last?) chance Tuesday night. Here are the transcripts of their press conferences, as provided by members of the Cincinnati chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America.

CHRIS HENRY

Q: Opening statement: I just want to say I greatly appreciate this opportunity that I have, which is being able to be back here in Cincinnati. I know I've made mistakes here in the past. I wish I could have the opportunity for my fans to work hard and make it back up. I want to thank the Bengals for everything and, like I said, for giving me this opportunity…

Q: How long have you been talking to the Bengals about this chance?

A: I haven't talked to anyone. I met with Coach Lewis once but maybe just a few days…

Q: When did you meet with him?

A: Uhhh, I want to say last week…

Q: Do you know about the reports from a month ago about your agent talking to the Bengals?

A: I don't exactly but he was telling me back and forth about small conversations. I was always hoping that I would have the chance to get back here and have the opportunity to play with Cincinnati again so it all worked out…

Q: In talking with Marvin last week did you get any indication there might be an open door to come back?

A: It was more of talking just to see where I was at, how I was doing and how I was going about everything that I've been through…

Q: He had said publicly a few times that he had no interest in bringing you back. Did you hear those comments and where you surprised he was open to you coming back?

A: I heard it but I really didn't pay too much mind to it. Me and coach we never really had a problem. I always thought we had a good relationship…

Q: Are you on a zero tolerance policy?

A: I haven't been told that but I know that's pretty much what I'm looking at. I'm not really, should I say worried or I'm not focused on that because I don't plan on coming out here and getting into any trouble. I'm happy to be back and just ready to move forward and work on my game and whatever I can do to help the team…

Q: Why should this time be any different?

A: Well, umm, it's pretty much my last chance to prove myself, which I plan on doing. That's pretty much what it is…

Q: What's different about you this time?

A: Nothing is different about me since my last suspension. Since my last suspension I've been handling myself in the manner of a professional athlete. It was an unfortunate situation which happened to me this last little incident but like I said since my last suspension I've been doing everything right…

Q: Did the NFL give you a reason why you were being suspended four games even though you were cleared of the charges?

A: The commissioner explained to me that he didn't want to see me back in New York for anything. That's pretty much where the suspension came from…

Q: There's a billboard on I-75 stating "Chris Henry again?" Is it tough to come back to such fan frustration? What do you say to them?

A: It's not tough for me but I wish the fans would allow me the chance to gain their trust back and proving myself and just having an opportunity to turn everything around. But it doesn't bother me…

Q: What do you say to people who say you've been given too many chances?

A: Well, I mean, there's pretty much nothing to say to them. I've got to prove it to my family and my teammates if it comes down to that…

Q: Do you understand the public outcry?

A: Yeah, I understand where they're coming from. Just from everything that's happened in the past and all of the mistakes I've made and I greatly regret. I understand where they're coming from. It's weird because they don't actually know everything.

Q: What don't they know?

A: They just go off of what they read. They don't actually know everything that happened. It really doesn't come down to that, it's really up to me to turn everything around and handle myself like a professional athlete.

Q: Did you talk to any other teams?

A: My agent spoke with other teams, but as far as signing, there were no others.

Q: Did you think the Bengals would take you back?

A: I knew I was going to be playing somewhere. I'm excited to have this opportunity, I'm so happy to be back, back in the locker room with my teammates.

Q: Do you anticipate any problems in the locker room?

A: It's been kind of busy today, everyone's been taking care of their business, but I don't think it'll be a problem. I get along with everyone in the locker room and everyone seems to like me. Today everyone seemed excited to see me, so I think everything will be all right.

Q: Is this uncomfortable, coming back?

A: Not at all, I'm just excited and ready to go. This is what I do. I'm used to being around this.

Q: What kind of shape are you in?

A: I'm in great shape. I'm ready to go.

Q: What have you done to keep in shape?

A: I've been training, I've been working pretty hard. I'm ready to get out on the field so I can prove that.

Q: Do you know when you're going to practice?

A: I'm not sure, I can't tell you that right now. It's up to coach. I mean, they're pretty much rolling right now, so it'd be hard for me to get out there and know exactly what's going on that quick. Pretty soon, hopefully.

Q: Has the team placed any restrictions on you?

A: They're leaving it up to me. It's pretty much on me. I plan on handling myself like I'm supposed to and surrounding myself with all positive people. I kind of just want to be around my family and my teammates.

Q: Your agent Marvin Frazier said today he hopes fans will judge you from this point forward. Is that your hope as well?

A: Yeah, I'd love for it to be like that, actually, but it's not they're going off of what they know and what they've heard from the past. If they'd give me the opportunity to prove myself, I plan on being around for a while. I think everything's going to work out and I'll be fine.

Q: Did you sign a two year deal?

A: Yes.

Q: Any old NFL players reached out to you to impress upon you how lucky you are to be playing a kids game and be paid exorbitant amounts of money to do so?

A: I spoke with Michael Irvin for a long, it was a long phone call, a long talk and he was pretty much talking to me and explaining to what I need to do and how to handle myself as far as being a professional athlete.

Q: When was that call?

A: That call was actually a month ago.

Q: If you saw a young guy in camp now and had an opportunity to tell him what to avoid, what would that be?

A: Pretty much just, you know, hanging out at the wrong spots and hanging around the wrong people. Playing ball is what we love to do, that's what we've been doing for a long time. To have that taken away from you, it can be really hard, a tough thing to go through and I kind of went through that. I was scared at one point that I wouldn't have the opportunity to be back on the field. That's pretty much what I would tell them.

Q: Have you talked to Mike Brown through this process?

A: No, I didn't. I spoke with him today and thanked him in person for giving me this opportunity.

MARVIN LEWIS

Opening statement: Obviously everyone is here, Chris has been re-signed to the football team. So he's got an opportunity over the next couple of weeks to see where he is at conditioning-wise, but we really don't know his status as far as the suspension goes, what he will be allowed to do, so we'll get clarity from the NFL at some point. I'd imagine in the next week or so. When the regular season rolls around, he obviously goes on suspension, so we don't know what his limitations will be with that. We expect that he won't be allowed to practice, but will participate in meetings and conditioning. Once off suspension we'll be able to see whether he will be a positive addition to the football team, and we'll go from there.

Q: So what changed in the past month or even the past week when you said you weren't interested in bringing him back?

A: Well, I don't know that, as I said that, I know at the end of the day the owner has the final say so whether or not he wants to give a guy an opportunity or not. Mike has wanted to give Chris this opportunity, and asked we do the best job we can to prepare him and get him ready to play football, and if he can be a positive influence on this football team and help us win games and be productive as a receiver, and get better as a receiver, and we feel that way after the suspension is over then he has a chance to win a spot. That's what he asked me to do, and that's what we're going to do.

When you met with him last week did you pick up anything from him that he realizes the gravity of the situation?

A: I think this last three four months have been very humbling for Chris. And I think the week since the charges were dropped or whatever, whatever legal terms that is, and his phone didn't ring, I think that also was very humbling. So I think in that way there were a lot of things Chris learned. He learned that sometimes people he felt were friends they all of a sudden got scarce from him when he really couldn't do anything for them. I think in a lot of ways Chris learned some lessons about things, and he's getting a second chance here. I think that being on the street was very humbling, and the fact that when he had the opportunity to be reinstated the phone didn't ring.

Q: How do you deal with fan outrage, including billboards and Internet polls?

A: We can't really visit that. That's kind of where we are with things. We're going to move forward that way and not worry it.

Q: Do you understand the frustration of fans?

A: Well, I just said ... I just made my statement and I can't answer each fan's frustration. I get frustrated on Sunday afternoons, too. I get frustrated on Mondays. That's part of this job. I can't answer each of their frustrations. They have an option to be frustrated, if they want. It's a waste of time on their part but they have that option. Their frustrations aren't going to change us and our opportunity to win football games.

Q: This was pretty much Mike's decision?

A: Mike makes decisions with my input and so forth all the time. But every decision made in this building is ultimately his decision. We talk quite a bit and you know the relationship we have. Once we make a decision, it's our decision and I'm going to be supportive of him just like he is of me. And we're going to move forward and I'm going to do the best job I can coaching this football team. And we'll see who the best 53 players are week in and week out, and our goal is to win a lot of football games. That's my task at hand, and right now Chris is going to get this opportunity and we're going to go forward.

Q: Are you concerned about what impact this might have?

A: I don't think it has an impact outside of this room, OK? All right guys, thank you.

Q: Is there any messages being sent?

A: There is no message. I'm done.

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