Up & Adam: Too Soon For Henton?

One week after being arrested for allegedly soliciting a prostitute, Ohio State quarterback Antonio Henton was back on the practice field today. But as he prepares for a date in court later this month, was Jim Tressel hasty in allowing the Georgia native to return to the squad? BSB staff writer Adam Jardy thinks so.

This was probably not what Woody Hayes meant when he used the phrase "Whether they're talking good or they're talking bad, keep ‘em talking."

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel quoted Hayes in response to an unrelated question, but it had an odd resonance in a press conference peppered with questions relating to recently suspended and even more recently reinstated quarterback Antonio Henton.

For the first time in more than a year, people are talking about an less-than-flattering off-the-field incident involving a Buckeye, and it is unlikely that kind of talking is good for anyone. On Tuesday, Henton returned to the practice field to be semi-reunited with his teammates.

It was not a full reunion because the backup quarterback who had been making major strides toward being the No. 2 player on the depth chart is now relegated to the scout team indefinitely. In the meantime, a court date in mid-October looms for the Georgia native on the charge that he solicited a prostitute who turned out to be an undercover police officer.

After being arrested on Monday, Sept. 24, it was just three days later that Tressel decided to allow Henton to resume working with the team.

Is it too soon? Tressel said he does not care if people think so, and the players appear happy just to have him back.

When asked if he felt it would be awkward when Henton returned to practice Tuesday afternoon, wide receiver Brian Robiskie's voice carried some extra weight – and his eyes a little extra fire – as he responded to the question prior to Henton's first practice.

"I think that whatever happens with Antonio and his court date will resolve that situation, but he's always been a member of this team," he said. "Even when all that was going on he was still a member of this team. We didn't cast him out in any way. We're definitely going to welcome him back."

That sentiment rang true at post-practice interviews, where both tight end Rory Nicol and defensive tackle Doug Worthington expressed their support for their teammate.

Following his first day back at practice, Worthington said having Henton back was "great."

"The locker room is different without him," he said. "He brings a different aura. He's a great guy, a great kid. I just love to see him back there smiling and being himself."

It appears that little has changed, then. Before the arrest, Henton was described as an easy-going, polite and funny player whose sense of humor frequently left his teammates in stitches. Now, those statements all seem to ring the same with just one change.

Namely, that he spent time in jail and was publicly admonished in court for failing to be a good ambassador for the university.

Just two days after Henton's appearance in court, Tressel was telling reporters that he would be allowing him to resume working with the scout team until his legal situation is straightened out because it "was the right thing to do."

Really? The right thing to do is to allow a player who was arrested to return to the team he let down – the same team that has drawn national criticism for the light his actions portray them in – exactly one week after he appeared in court?

When Henton was suspended from the team, he was not suspended from his scholarship. He did not take part in athletic activities but was still permitted to attend class free of charge, no small measure in itself.

I can understand the family mentality Tressel espouses about his program and his players, and there certainly is something to be said for loyalty to a friend, teammate or family member. Ask any Buckeye about one of his teammates, and terms like "love," "respect" and "brother" will likely come up.

Am I suggesting that the football program should have simply cast Henton out into the street and tell him to fend for himself? Absolutely not. I was taught while growing up to forgive and forget, not to chastise and expel.

But what was wrong with leaving him on academic scholarship until his court case was resolved? Ask any student who pays out-of-state tuition, and he or she would tell you that a free ride would be enough for a sense of being taken care of. For whatever reason, though, this was an option Tressel said he never considered when deciding how to handle the Henton situation.

Instead, Henton is running the scout team while the Buckeyes prepare to face their most dangerous quarterback of the young season. The same Henton that was winning his teammates' confidence – as well as their respect – before this situation came to be.

When asked if he seemed like the old Antonio Henton, Worthington said, "Of course. He's Antonio Henton to the bristle. He was the same kid I knew when he first came here. He never changed. A great guy. He was joking, but serious when he had to be as far as doing the scout team drills."

But hey, he's learned his lesson -- and in record time. Right?

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