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Irvin rooting for Henry

Chris Henry

Posted: 7:15 p.m.

Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry is 16 yards shy of the NFL preseason receiving lead, is tied for third with 13 catches, and his 16.7 yards per leads all players with double-digit catches.

Michael Irvin reached out his Hall of Fame hands to Chris Henry at the nadir and is now enjoying Henry's success as much as anyone.

"I enjoy the game. I just enjoy watching the game and if the Chris Henrys aren't on the field, I feel cheated," Irvin said Monday. "A guy with so much talent needs to realize that. Self sabotage. That's what I told him. Stop sabotaging your own success."

Irvin, a former NFL bad boy himself as the big-play wideout for the Super Bowl champion Cowboys of the '90s, appeared on a conference call pumping his dual role on NFL Network starting Opening Day. He'll be a part of the 9 a.m. NFL GameDay Morning show and then serve as an analyst on NFL GameDay Highlights at 7:30 p.m.

It was back in 2008 when he was out of a job that Henry says Irvin called out of the blue. Irvin wanted to be careful about talking about specifics of the conversation in deference to Henry, but Henry thinks the connection came via Irvin's acquaintance with then-Cowboys cornerback Pacman Jones, Henry's teammate at West Virginia.

"He wanted to know my situation," said Henry, who at the time was fighting an assault charge that was eventually dropped. "He told me to keep my head up. He said, 'If you know the real story, don't stress about it. Worry about the future and keep working.' "

Irvin said they also talked about what goes into making bad decisions.

"You know, I wanted the opportunity to sit and talk with Chris Henry, talk to him about where he came from, his history," Irvin said, "about what's going on in his mind, to see what we could do about trying to make sure and trying to help him not make some of the decisions that he's made. And that's all.

"I reached out to him, and he was receptive. He was a nice young man and he listened. It told me a lot of things. It told me he didn't want to be in the situation he was in and that it does matter to him, his career does matter, football does matter. He wants to play the game. He wants to do the right things. He wants to stay on the football field, because he did listen and we have had conversations about that. So I'm wishing him the best."

At 6-2, 207 pounds, Irvin appreciates how the 6-4, 200-pound Henry stretches the field with size.

"This guy's talented. You know what's so funny, I tell people all the time how the game evolves. Used to be you used to get the big receiver and got the other receiver that's the fast guy. You have the big guy and you have the fast guy," he said.

"Now the big guys are the fast guys. That's what he is. He's the big guy that gets up the field and can still make the plays. Make the plays in the field, in the immediate areas in the field. Go over the top and is big and strong enough, it's hard to press him on the line of scrimmage because he's such a big, strong guy. All these things, you talk about the kind of talent that kid has to play wide receiver."

Even though he caught his third touchdown pass of the season last Thursday on a 54-yarder from Jordan Palmer, head coach Marvin Lewis made it clear that Henry is going to play with the first group only if he gets better without the ball, such as blocking.

Some would say Lewis is the only guy that has stopped Henry this preseason, but he's got valid reasons to look for more all-around play from his receivers. Lewis wants to run the ball and protect his quarterback.

And Lewis went out of his way Monday to point out that Henry has improved.

"Chris knows what he's got to get better at. He's worked hard in a lot of areas, and he's improved in a lot of areas," Lewis said. "But there are still some things that he has to make sure gets done. ... At the end of the day, I've got to count on who I can count on, and I think Chris understands those things."

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