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Hobson's Choice: Talent or no?

Q: Less than a year ago, I e-mailed and asked if the Bengals would be able to cut Henry for conduct detrimental to the team. At that time, you said that the club couldn't supersede the NFL and players could only be cut for performance reasons. So, has that all changed? Is the option to cut players for conduct part of the commissioner's new policy? If not, how did they get away with the Nicholson cut? It seems an odd message, or at the very least a CLEAR message, that a player with Henry's skill gets FAR more chances than a second-string LB. Am I off the mark?
--Casey, Bay City, MI

CASEY: Not at all. Nothing has changed. Players can't be cut for discipline reasons, only for skill. And the Bengals can argue this one because after playing only two games last year, Nicholson was so far down the depth chart he was backing up the staple and is clearly not one of their six best linebackers and certainly not in the top eight if Thurman and Everett are healthy.

Nicholson has had a few chances, too, dating back to college. His biggest second chance was getting drafted at all after a checkered off-field past that probably would have prevented him from getting drafted if he came out in this year's climate.

I feel bad for A.J. and his girlfriend that their pain has to be so public. But in this day and age, they have to expect what happened to them in regard to (thank goodness) a more enlightened view of domestic violence and to him in Roger Goodell's NFL.

Obviously, the Bengals would have a hell of a hard time trying to prove they cut one of the best receivers in the league for talent reasons if they lopped Henry.

I'm not sure that the NFL or any other pro, or college, or Little League sport, business, newspaper, TV station, web site, is all that different than anything else in life. If you're more valued, you're probably going to get more chances.

But that's between the players and their union because that is what is in the CBA.

The thing that amazes me about the Henry story is the number of e-mails calling for the guy's head while Kentucky officials spoke too soon and that, indeed, he may have tested negative, and spent all day Monday backtracking like Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall in a cornerback drill.

A drug test is a privacy issue, especially in the HIPAA era.

I mean, I know Henry has made some serious mistakes since he's been here, but those attorneys have a responsibility to protect everyone's rights, correct?

Yours. Mine. The guy in jail. The woman in the corner office. The retiree working at the golf course. Everyone. I was just surprised, that's all. I thought there would be more outrage aimed at the judicial institution that may have wrongly or—at the very least prematurely—accused a person rather than outrage aimed at the person himself.

Q: Geoff, I enjoy your articles and love your ability to give and take with the fans. But I do remember you questioning the idea of going after Keyshawn. Now with Henry failing, reportedly failing, a drug-test and looking at not only jail from his probation in Florida but also two of his cases here (can you say PacMan Jones II), should we expect the Bengals to make a late pitch for Keyshawn's services, or any other veteran receiver for that matter? Of course there will be a couple Bengals fans saying bring Warrick back, but is there anybody else out there?
--Mike, Arlington, VA

MIKE: Thanks for the kind words.

Status quo, right? Henry hasn't tested positive for certain and Keyshawn still has caught only three balls of 40 yards or longer in this century. It's still America, where you're innocent until proven guilty and big plays must be made down the field.

Certainly Henry's next wrong step could very well be his last in the NFL. Forget the substance abuse policy, which says another problem nets a year suspension. He's already had three because even though he pled a DUI down to reckless driving, the league views it as a substance abuse problem.

But under the new player conduct policy, Goodell has shown he'll override that, and given that he warned Henry and PacMan that this was their last chance, it would probably mean an indefinite suspension.

But the facts are that Henry hasn't delievered a positive test that triggers everything and there isn't anybody available that can do what Henry does in stretching the field.

Keyshawn has had a nice career and is a true hard worker, but he's looking for a big check that the Bengals say they don't have under the salary cap. And they need younger legs—Tab Perry, Antonio Chatman, Bennie Brazell—to at least cope with Henry's loss.

Plus, given the fragile state of the club's psyche, it just doesn't seem like a fit. Now, if a younger, faster, cheaper guy comes free, maybe look at it. But right now they seem better served with Chatman (who caught 49 balls two years ago for the Packers) and Perry (a big, physical, tough receiver faster than Henry and hard to bring down) rather the 35-year-old Keyshawn. You have to love Perry's fire.

He doesn't have Henry's skills when the ball is in the air, but who does?

Perry, by the way, looks to be coming back fine from his hip injury that wiped out all but two games for him last season, although he's rusty like anyone would be.

If Perry and Chatman can combine for about 40 catches in Henry's absence for about four touchdowns in the first eight games, it's not quite Henry stuff, but you would think they could win with it.

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