Henry gone for first half of season

Posted Apr 10, 2007

RELATED: NFL Release: Henry, Jones suspended

Updated: 3:25 p.m.

True to his tough words, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell handed out two of the toughest suspensions ever for off-field misbehavior Tuesday as the billboard for his new player conduct policy when he suspended Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry without pay for the first eight games of the 2007 season and Titans cornerback Pacman Jones for the entire season.

If Henry is to return after eight games, Goodell outlined what he must do on a day he also unveiled a policy that gives the commissioner's office sweeping powers when it comes to discipline :

He must have no further adverse involvement with law enforcement.

He must fully cooperate with all required counseling, education, and treatment assigned to him under league programs.

He is eligible to be at the Bengals facilities during the rest of the offseason for customary activities and he must meet weekly with the team's player development director.

If he fully complies with all other conditions, he may participate in the Bengals training camp and preseason games.

During the regular season, he is permitted to be at the Bengals facility for team meetings and must meet weekly with the team's player development director, but he may not attend or participate in practice.

He must fully comply with all conditions imposed on him by any court, including requirements of community service.

Goodell also indicated Henry would be banished for life if there are any more missteps.

"I must emphasize to you that this is your last opportunity to salvage your NFL career," Goodell wrote both Henry and Jones. "I urge you to take full advantage of the resources available to support you in that effort."

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On Tuesday, Goodell also unleashed a harsher player conduct code after discussions with players, coaches, owners and he made it clear last month at the NFL's annual league meeting in Phoenix that taming the off-field crime spree is a top priority.

It's believed Henry's suspension is twice longer than any suspension under the old conduct code. There have been longer suspensions for drugs and gambling.

"There are a very few number of players. I think they are tainting the league," Goodell said then. "I think they are tainting the other players. We need to get to it as quickly as possible and remove it. ... I probably have less understanding than most ... it's about protecting the shield. ... I assure you it will be stronger. ... We are expecting discipline will be stepped up."

Goodell has the right to do what he did under the old code.

"Any (player) convicted of or admitting to a criminal violation (including a plea to a lesser included offense) ... will be subject to discipline as determined by the Commissioner. ... Any (player) convicted of or admitting to a second criminal violation will be suspended without pay or banished for a period of time to be determined by the Commissioner," is how the old code read.

But the suspensions reflect the new code's less specific guidelines but harher punishment:

"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," the NFL said Tuesday.

"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."

Quarterback Carson Palmer, who ripped his teammates' behavior three months ago after the ninth and most recent Bengal arrest, said before the ruling came down Tuesday he realizes Goodell is trying to "better the image."

"I hope that it works and I hope the guys abide by the rules and do what's right," he said.

"We support the Commissioner's ruling," said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis in a press release, "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."

His teammates knew a suspension was coming, but they and the club thought Henry might get less because of a previous two-game suspension and the fact that he has been relatively clean for nearly a year.

"I'm not allowed to say what I think of the ruling or else I might be disciplined," said Pro Bowl wide receiver Chad Johnson. "I don't want to make the situation more complicated than it already is. The ruling is unfortunate and I'll just leave it at that."

Henry, 23, a big-play wide receiver with 15 touchdown catches during his first two NFL seasons, has become one of the faces of the league's mushrooming criminal problem even though his fourth and last arrest came nearly a year ago.

The suspension stems from his last two arrests back in the spring.

In January, Henry was sentenced to 90 days in jail (all but two were suspended) for allowing minors to drink alcohol in his Northern Kentucky hotel room late last April. Henry also avoided a possible drunken-driving conviction by pleading guilty to a lesser charge of reckless operation of a car in Clermont County, Ohio, last June.

Last month he was also ticketed for three city of Cincinnati traffic violations that included driving with a suspended license.

Goodell had already flexed his muscles on Henry last season during his first six weeks in office, suspending him for the Tampa Bay and Carolina games following the legal resolutions of his first two arrests: misdemeanor marijuana possession in Covington, Ky., and a felony gun charge in Orlando, Fla.

Although Goodell's decision wasn't mentioned during Tuesday's media period in the Bengals locker room, Henry's teammates had an idea it was going to be bad because of the amount of off-field problems the NFL has suffered in the past year.

"We already know he's a hard ball. I don't think he needs to prove that anymore," said Johnson of Goodell. "We get the point. We all know he's not playing any games. He's in a position right now I think he's going to prove a point. How harsh that point is, he might get a little ridiculous with it. Where this is not necessary."

Fellow receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, one of the players who met with Goodell at the commissioner's summit on player conduct in February, felt he was going to make a stand.

"You know he wants to set a precedent and make an example," Houshmandzadeh said. "Hopefully it's not too big. But regardless if it is something it's going to hurt us.

"You would think it is necessary because of the negative publicity that the NFL is beginning to receive. It was going on for an extended period of time. Each week something was happening. To clean up the game, whatever does happen, if I was a rookie coming in, you just don't put yourself in that position."

Henry missed three games last season because of off-field behavior and the Bengals struggled to score points in all of them. He missed the 38-13 loss to New England on Oct. 1 when Lewis deactivated him after he was in the car that Bengals middle linebacker Odell Thurman was driving when he was charged with DUI.

In the two games he was sat down by Goodell, the Bengals lost to Tampa Bay, 14-13, on Oct. 15 and beat the Panthers, 17-14, on Oct. 22.

Tab Perry and Antonio Chatman, who caught just eight passes for 103 yards between them last seaon because they were limited by injuries, are projected as the receivers to make up for Henry's loss. Henry had 124 yards by himself in the final game of the season and Palmer admitted Tuesday he's "irreplaceable with what he brings to the game."

According to the Associated Press, Henry loses $204,705.88 in salary if the Bengals bye week comes after Week 8. He'll lose $230,294.12 if the Bengals bye week falls in the first eight weeks of the season, meaning he will miss nine weeks of pay.

He'll find out Wednesday, when the NFL schedule is expected to be released.

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