Chris Henry. What's your first thought? Villain? Criminal? Troubled? Youth, even? Ask a Bengals fan, and, in most cases, you'll hear that he's more trouble than he's worth. Ask a Steelers fan, and they'll pull out their sheet of paper like a condom from the wallet listing off Bengals-are-criminal jokes. Ask a Browns or Ravens fan, and you'll hear crickets in the distant background. I'm only joking. I kid because I care.
I have to admit, I was shocked at the severity of Henry's suspension. I expected Roger Goodell to make an example against his Lex Luthers. But having already given Henry a round of suspensions, I expected something a little more reasonable. Suspensions to start the season was a given -- no one argued against that. But eight games? Is it fair that Henry served his time and is being punished again, retroactively, so he can become Roger Goodell's little poster boy? I say no. But if this is the best Goodell can do to stem conduct issues, then most agree, it must be done. But how effective will it be? Goodell's new policy may resonate this season, but most of the character guys do NOT think of consequences before their actions. If they did, they'd avoid the public embarrassment that comes with DUIs, drug possession and general arrests and league imposed penalties.
Some say Henry deserved it. Multiple arrests tend to be annoying to even the most Homerific Bengals fan. But when it's all over, he will have been suspended 11 games -- if you add the three games from last season. Hardly a reasonable case can be made that Henry being suspended that much while Tank Johnson remains silent because HE IS IN JAIL.
I'm not here to defend Henry either. That would be a losing battle. Nor am I here to tell you that Henry should be cut. That would be foolish. Henry gives our passing offense an added weapon -- tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns. Until the NFL is united against picking up character talent, it would be damaging to our own team to get rid of Henry's talent. Dependability is a valid concern, but in the last round of suspensions, Henry and the Bengals truly got screwed. But if other teams do not apply similar policy fighting against moral corruption and violators of common decency, then why should we put ourselves behind the eight-ball?
Here's the Bengals press release:
Under league policy, the Bengals may elect to have Henry participate in normal offseason activities, as well as preseason activities and preseason games. His suspension will begin on Mon., Sept. 3, the start of the practice week for Cincinnati’s Sept. 10 regular season opener. During the suspension, he will be held out of practices as well as Games 1-8. He will be allowed to attend meetings and to work out individually at team facilities.
He will be eligible to rejoin the Bengals’ active roster on the Monday following Game 8. During the suspension, he will be placed on Reserve/Suspended by Commissioner, and will not count against the team’s 53-player roster limit.
"We support the Commissioner’s ruling," said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, "and while we regret the circumstances that called for it, it’s good for both Chris and the Bengals to have the matter resolved. Our team will move forward, and now it is up to Chris to acquire a more mature understanding of his responsibilities as a player for the Bengals and a representative of the NFL."
Some are asking if the Bengals should draft a replacement. I fully disagree with that assessment only because Henry isn't gone. He'll be out the first half of the season, sure. But with Antonio Chatman, Tab Perry, and the unprovens of Skyler Green, Glenn Holt and Bennie Brazell, the Bengals offense will get by. But there's really no way to replace a #3 receiver like Chris Henry. It would be foolish if the Bengals went outside their projected defensive draft plans on the first day.
Goodell continues his power trip by threatening of punishing the team because of a player's conduct off the field. However, if the CBA prevents teams from taking any significant action, then what's the point of punishing the team? It's like saying, you can't do much about it but if you don't do anything, then we're coming after you too. That makes absolutely zero sense.
More on the actual policy:
- The annual rookie symposium of all drafted players will be expanded to include mandatory year-round rookie orientation by all clubs that will reinforce the information presented at the June symposium.
- An expanded annual life-skills program for all players and clubs will be mandatory.
- There will be mandatory briefings each year for all players and clubs given by local law enforcement representatives. These briefings will cover laws pertaining to possession of guns, drinking and driving, domestic disputes and other matters, including gang-related activities in the community that could be of significance to players, coaches, and other club-related personnel.
- Every club will be required to implement a program for employees to enhance compliance with laws relating to drinking and driving.
- Counseling and treatment programs for all club and league employees that violate the policy will be expanded.
- The standard of socially responsible conduct for NFL employees will be higher. Club and league employees will be held to a higher standard than players. Conduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity and reputation of the NFL will be subject to discipline, even if not criminal in nature.
- Discipline for individuals that violate the policy will include larger fines and longer suspensions.
- Repeat violations of the personal conduct policy will be dealt with aggressively, including discipline for repeat offenders even when the conduct itself has not yet resulted in a conviction of a crime.
- Individuals suspended under the policy must earn their way back to active status by fully complying with professional counseling and treatment that will include evaluation on a regular basis.
- Clubs will be subject to discipline in cases involving violations of the Personal Conduct Policy by club employees. In determining potential club discipline going forward, the commissioner will consider all relevant factors, including the history of conduct-related violations by that club's employees and the extent to which the club's support programs are consistent with best practices as identified and shared with the clubs. Recommended best practices include having a full-time club player development director and a full-time club security director.