Bengals owner desperate to save souls, or himself? Print
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Tuesday, 19 August 2008 22:20
NFL Headline News

 Who doesn't love a story about redemption?
Unfortunately, this isn't one of those.
Instead, it's about how Chris Henry turned up at Bengals camp with yet one more second chance and a new two-year deal just four months after he was released by the team and suspended indefinitely by the league.
It isn't about owner Mike Brown's change of heart, either. The relevant body parts in the decision to bring Henry back were the sprained left shoulder and injured hamstring suffered by Cincinnati Pro Bowl receivers Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, respectively - and that empty portion of Brown's brain where memory used to reside.
Earlier this year, the owner said he was shutting down the NFL's version of ``Boys Town'' and getting out of the rehabilitation business. Ten Bengals players had been arrested over the previous 14 months, a few of whom Brown drafted even though their rap sheets were longer than their transcripts, and he'd decided enough was enough.
Henry had just established a personal best with his fifth arrest - charges that he punched a college student and broke his car window with a beer bottle were subsequently dropped after a mistrial - when Brown insisted he was through trying to save his third-round pick from the 2005 draft.
``His conduct can no longer be tolerated,'' the owner said at the time, and just to prove he was serious, a month later Brown cut Odell Thurman, the team's second pick from that same 2005 draft. After being suspended the previous two seasons for skipping a drug test and a drunken driving arrest, Thurman kept his record intact by failing to show for a series of voluntary workouts and was handed his walking papers. Which can only mean his phone will start ringing any day now.
The Bengals have been a joke on the field nearly every day since Brown took the helm from his father, the late Paul Brown, in 1991 - they've posted exactly one winning season since - and even sorrier outside the lines. The younger Brown thinks so highly of his own counsel that he hasn't bothered to hire a general manager. Two of the players he tagged as ``franchise players'' fled town before the ink had a chance to dry; so many others he signed to deals ripped the club that Brown tried - and failed - to get loyalty clauses written into contracts for new players.
And if it wasn't clear before, that little power-sharing experiment that began with the hiring of coach Marvin Lewis a half-dozen years ago is officially over. Lewis was able early in his stay to dislodge a few of Brown's cronies from the front office and he did get the tightfisted owner to spring for a new weight room.
But as far as changing the team's culture, that was about it. Lewis wasn't about to pretend otherwise.
``Mike makes decisions with my input and so forth all the time,'' he said Tuesday. ``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,'' Lewis added. ``And we're going to move forward and I'm going to do the best job I can coaching this football team.''
A local judge called Henry a ``one-man crime wave,'' but with the charges dropped, the league's indefinite suspension was cut to four games. The Bengals believe Henry will be barred from practice when the regular season begins, but will be allowed to participate in meetings and conditioning. Their fans, including whoever paid for a billboard along Interstate 75 that reads, ``Chris Henry again?'' might not be as quick to forgive and forget.
``I understand where they're coming from,'' Henry said. ``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.''
No, he doesn't actually and neither does Brown. This isn't about saving souls as much as it is about an owner desperately trying to save his own skin. Henry admitted his phone hadn't rung with an offer until Brown called. Generally, offenders are advised to avoid the people and places where they last found trouble.
Henry, though, couldn't wait to get back in the fold.
``I'm just excited and ready to go. This is what I do. I'm used,'' Brown said, ``to being around this.''
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at

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