Updated: 8-19-08, 11 a.m.
Marvin Frazier, one of Chris Henry's representatives, confirmed Tuesday morning that his client is in Cincinnati getting a physical and is expected to sign a contract but can't play or practice in the regular season until the fifth week because he's on the suspended list.
The Bengals made the signing official Tuesday morning in a press release. In an additional roster move, the Bengals waived cornerback Jerrid Gaines. Gaines had been signed as a free agent on August 5.
According to the release, Henry is eligible as of Tuesday to join whatever team preseason activities are assigned to him by the coaching staff. He is eligible to play in the final two preseason games. His suspension will begin on Mon., Sept. 1, the start of the practice week for Cincinnati's Sept. 7 regular season opener. During the suspension, he will be held out of practices as well as Games 1-4. He may resume full activities on Mon., Sept. 29, the start of the practice week for Game 5, on Oct. 5 at Dallas.
HenryThe signing indicates that Chad Johnson's sprained shoulder is serious enough that the Bengals look to be preparing for the possibility that Johnson could be sidelined for several weeks, although Johnson insisted Monday night he'll be back for the opener.
But that's not the only injury that has clouded the receiver picture in the last 48 hours. There is also rookie receiver Andre Caldwell's sprained foot and T.J. Houshmandzadeh's hamstring. He's 50-50 at best to play in his first preseason game Saturday night against the Saints, and the Bengals could be forced to sign a receiver in addition to Henry.
Henry became the face of the Bengals' off-field problems that marred the 2006 season and as late as last week head coach Marvin Lewis indicated he was not interested in him.
Frazier said that Henry traveled to the Bengals' Georgetown College training camp a few weeks ago and met with Lewis after the coach put it in as strong as terms as possible on July 22.
"I'm not interested," Lewis told reporters at the Bengals training camp luncheon. "I don't think it would be productive for our football team. You have to be a productive part to be an NFL player, and there's responsibilities to being an NFL player. It's a privilege, it's not a right. There's a lot that comes with being an NFL football player."
Frazier said Henry talked to other clubs, including the Ravens, the opponent in the Sept. 7 regular-season opener that he can't play in because of his four-game suspension.
"It was a family decision more than anything," Frazier said. "They felt like he needed to go someplace where he was going to get support and the Bengals have been tremendous that way. Not only does he know the offense and the guys, but he wants to show people there that he's not the kind of guy they think he is."
Henry is on his third NFL suspension and the Bengals cut him April 3 after his fifth arrest, this one for assault, a charge that was later dropped. He also began last season with a suspension, an eight-gamer for two alcohol-related arrests in the spring of 2006.
"This last incident was proven to be bogus and it was an unfortunate incident because he was doing everything he had to do," Frazier said. "He was suspended for four games because he shouldn't have been there, and I believe he gets it."
Frazier confirmed that Henry is basically broke and says he seems to have undergone a transformation in order to get his life back in order.
"No one has lost more than this young man," Frazier said. "He could have gone the other way. He could have been bitter and complained and moaned. But he's really been great. He's got no choice. You can't run away and hide. You've got to grow up."
Asked if they had considered a change of scenery because of the community and media scrutiny in Cincinnati, Frazier said, "No matter where you go, it's going to be like that for NFL players. That's the way it is.
"Hopefully with the organization giving him another chance, the fans will, too."
Johnson's injury, which involved the shoulder popping out and then back into the joint, the club's withering receiver depth, and the miserable effort on offense in the 27-10 loss to the Lions on Sunday night has apparently won the day despite Henry's notorious track record.
"If you mean by extended period the last two preseason games, that's all it's going to be," Johnson said. "It's great (Henry) is back. He'll be fine."
At least one veteran endorsed the move when it surfaced last week that the Bengals were talking to Henry.
"If he's going to play for anybody in the league, why not here?" asked defensive tackle John Thornton, who served as defensive captain last year. "The Bengals took a lot of crap for him. Why let him go somewhere else, and he goes plays for Dallas and he becomes a superstar? He knows this offense.
"If he screws up, he's done. It's a one-strike policy. If everybody is comfortable, if the NFL is comfortable with it ... in my opinion, as a friend and a player, I think the locker room would light up just to see him back because everybody's been reading about how tough it's been with him with foreclosures and all that."
Henry's stats are seductive. The 6-4, 200-pounder showed a great knack for tracking the long ball by scoring 15 touchdowns on his first 67 catches during his first two seasons in the NFL. His production dipped last year to just two touchdowns in eight games after spending the first eight games on the suspended list.
The Bengals figure to sign Henry to a contract with minimum salaries. Like last year, Henry can practice and play in preseason games before sitting the first month. But since he hasn't been with a team since the Bengals cut him, he may not be ready to play at all in the preseason.