Trouble Over the Horizon?

A month ago Marvin Lewis emphatically stated he didn't want Chris Henry back with the Bengals. He reiterated that stance last week. But Bengals president Mike Brown decided he wanted to give Henry another opportunity. Does this public display of going against the head coach's wishes mean anything in the locker room?

Marvin Lewis spent about five minutes Tuesday night doing something he hadn't planned on or wanted to do. Lewis was talking to the media about the Bengals re-signing Chris Henry.

If the decision on whether or not to bring back Henry had been all on Lewis' shoulders it wouldn't have happened.

But Henry is back. Bengals owner and president Mike Brown decided he wanted to give Henry another chance four months after the team released him following a fifth arrest in four years. Henry was exonerated of the assault charges that originally cost him his job with the Bengals but five days before training camp was to open both Lewis and Brown said the team was done with Henry.

It seems as if only Lewis has maintained that stance.

Lewis made it clear during the press conference that he was only following orders from his boss.

"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," said Lewis Tuesday night. "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."

The question that sprouts from the move is: how does bringing Henry back affect Lewis' credibility with the other players? Does the fact that Lewis repeatedly and publicly stated his lack of interest in bringing back Henry, yet it still happens, undermine his position with players?

If it does, none of the players are admitting to it.

"No, we all respect Marvin," said defensive tackle John Thornton, who was the team's defensive captain last season. "Mike makes the decisions. We know who is making the decisions. It's his team and that's how it is. Jerry Jones wanted Pacman (Adam Jones) or he wanted (Terrell Owens). Bill Parcells didn't want T.O. but who is in Dallas? T.O. is the guy they signed.

"The owner has the right to make that decision. It happens all over the league. It's no different here. Marvin is a great coach and he doesn't lose any credibility with us. He's going to coach whoever is here but he has a certain standard he wants his guys to live by."

Others echoed Thornton's sentiments.

*WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh: "It's Mr. Brown's team and he can do what he wants to do. Everybody in here could be gone tomorrow. He can do pretty much whatever he likes and he did what he wanted to do."

*RT Willie Anderson: "We're going to support (Henry) if he does the necessary steps to ensure us he's going to be a responsible person. The football part is not a problem. It's just making sure that you're representing us and you're representing a lot of people that have gone to bat for you. Mr. Brown has gone to bat for him. Marvin has gone to bat for him. Coaches have gone to bat for him. I mentioned guys like (strength coach) Ray Oliver and Rusty (Guy, director of security) and Eric Ball (director of player relations) as guys who have gone to bat for Chris more times than you guys will ever know. He should have that in the back of his head telling him "I want to show these people that I'm going to get this right this time." Hopefully he does.

*QB Carson Palmer: "The head coaches don't run the teams in the National Football League. The organizations run the teams. Whether it was Marvin's decision or not he's still our head coach. We still listen to him and go as he goes and go where to go when he says where to go, but I don't think he's lost respect in the locker room. A lot of that has been talk outside this locker room."

Lewis was clearly agitated with having to deal with the situation. The fact is that even though Henry is on the roster now and is eligible to practice the next two weeks and play in the final two preseason games he won't really be able to be a factor for the team for another seven weeks. The four-game suspension he must first serve from the NFL prohibits him from doing so.

If one learned anything from last year when Henry missed the first eight games of the season due to suspension it is that one can't assume Henry will be able to pick up where he left off. He's missed a lot of practice time and that shows up on game day.

"The problem is he's not going to have the chance to show us anything," said offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski. "We know what he is capable of doing. They're working out with him right now to find out his physical conditioning. When (strength coaches Chip Morton and Ray Oliver) say he's ready to practice, he will. We'll see what happens from there."

When Henry returned last season he was not able to provide the kind of impact that had been expected. He caught 21 passes for 343 yards and two touchdowns – a 37-yarder against Arizona and a 52-yarder at San Francisco. The Bengals lost both of those games. Take away the two deep touchdowns and Henry's impact was even less.

"One person doesn't make this team go," said running back Kenny Watson. "He's going to have to come in and get chemistry with the quarterbacks in terms of getting his timing and routes down. He's going to have to work hard and it's not going to be easy for him but I think he's going to be up to the challenge. You don't get as many chances as he's gotten so I hope he takes advantage of this one. Everyone around here is going to help him."


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