Updated: 8-20-08, 3:30 a.m.
With apologies to Kevin Garnett of the World Champion Celtics, Dean of Bengaldom Willie Anderson observed Tuesday night, "Anything is possible."
And he just wasn't talking about Chris Henry re-signing with the Bengals. He was talking about the possibility of Henry catching two touchdown passes against the Cowboys when he comes off suspension Oct. 5.
"Who's to say this call may not be a great call?" Anderson asked. "That's what we're all hoping. As a teammate, he's got my support. ... He's a talented player, let's go play some football."
While Anderson reserves judgment, many haven't. Blogs, polls, boards, and any other device has interactively bashed the move. Even Marvin from Indian Hill has to be sold.
"I obviously know at the end of the day the owner has the final say-so on whether he wants to give a guy an opportunity or not," said head coach Marvin Lewis of Bengals president Mike Brown.
"Mike has wanted to give Chris this opportunity and asked that we do the best job that we can to get him ready to play football and if he can be a positive influence on this team and help us win games and get better as a receiver. And if we feel that way after the suspension is over, then he has a chance to earn a spot. That's what he asked me to do and that's what we're going to do."
Lewis Henry got a warm reception in the locker room, from new locker mate Rudi Johnson to rookie defensive tackle Jason Shirley, whose orientation included a visit to Henry when he was on house arrest this past spring. Carson Palmer had no comment, but Henry said No. 9 told him he was ready to go to work with him.
"Obviously it made an impression on me," said Shirley, who had off-field problems at Fresno State. "To see a guy like that with that great potential in that situation. I'm glad to see him back."
Anderson first hoped Henry thanked the core of people in the organization that have "gone above and beyond" trying to get him back on the field.
Eric Ball, director of player relations. Ray Oliver, associate strength coach. Rusty Guy, director of security. Plus, Lewis has still reached out to talk to Henry about life issues.
"He has a lot to be thankful for. He's found the end of the rainbow three or four times," Anderson said. "He should tell those people he's not going to let those guys down. ... I don't think any player can ever say they don't have support on this team ... this team sets up a good support system for guys. There shouldn't be any excuses.
"Who are we to say, 'You shouldn't do this?' We didn't help build this organization starting in 1968."
Henry, 25, thrice suspended and arrested four times, didn't offer any excuses Tuesday and he vowed not to let down Brown or his teammates. And he included the fans in there, too, even though he says he doesn't let the negativity bother him.
"(I hope) the fans would allow me the chance to gain my trust back and proving myself and having the opportunity to turn everything around," said Henry, who was asked what he would say to those that believe he's been given too many chances.
"There's nothing I can say to them," he said. "I'll prove it to my family and my teammates if it comes down to that. I greatly regret the mistakes.
"It's weird, they don't actually know everything that happened. They just go off what they read. They don't actually know what happened. It doesn't matter. It's really up to me to turn everything around. Just handle myself like a professional athlete."
HenryOn Sunday afternoon, Henry looked as far away as one of his long balls from Palmer. Then the offense went out that night and not only looked brutal in the 27-10 loss to the Lions, but the deal may have been sealed when Pro Bowl wide receiver Chad Johnson came off the field with a hanging shoulder.
There is speculation Johnson may be out several weeks with his sprain, but all he talked about Tuesday was his challenge match with Gold Medal swimmer Michael Phelps.
"End of the year," Johnson said. "We're going to run 100 yards and then dive in the pool and swim 100."
But the Bengals are virtually sinking without Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh (hamstring) and Andre Caldwell (turf toe), and they need some insurance and somebody that can run vertical patterns.
The problem is Henry can't practice from Sept. 1 to Sept. 27. He can work now once Lewis decides he's ready, but his four-game suspension kicks in the week of the first game.
"He's really a non-issue for two months," said offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski. "We have to work and deal with where we are now. We can't even worry about two months from now."
Still, Henry's teammates were glad to see him.
"He's a talent and it would have been such a waste if he didn't get back on the field," said left tackle Levi Jones. "Hopefully he'll be able to right the ship. It's going to be an uphill battle, but I'm going to support him."
ThorntonDefensive tackle John Thornton reiterated what he said last week: Why shouldn't the Bengals be the team that gives Henry that last chance?
"We've got guys hurt and we've got a great talent on the street sitting in our backyard," Thornton said. "He didn't get charged with what he did the last time. Why still punish him for something he didn't do? That's my opinion. That's not everybody's opinion."
Henry got back his old No. 15 from rookie receiver Clyde Logan (now wearing 12), but got a new locker in a corner. Wide receiver Marcus Maxwell moved one down next to running back Rudi Johnson, and Johnson noticed.
"The main thing is for him to focus on helping us win ballgames and focus on his job and focus on his family," Johnson said. "I talked to him, and that's the situation in hand. His locker's right here beside mine now so I can talk to him each and every day. A good friend of mine. I'll talk to him more on a day-to-day basis ... just making sure he's doing the things necessary to be a success."
Marvin Frazier, one of Henry's representatives, says he sees a different guy now that he's basically starting from scratch financially and physically. At least his head coach and one of his teammates sensed it, too, Tuesday.
"It's kind of crazy when you've seen all the stuff he's done, but he's never been kicked out of the league," Johnson said. "I think that was an eye-opening experience for him. Not just suspended, but not have a job. I think he learned from that."
Lewis got that sense when he met with Henry at Georgetown College at training camp earlier this month.
"The week since the charges were dropped and his phone didn't ring was also very humbling," Lewis said. "He learned sometimes people he thought were friends, they all of a sudden were scarce when he couldn't do anything for them. ... Being on the street was very humbling."
Lewis reiterated how he and Brown approach personnel decisions.
"Mike makes decisions with my input all the time," Lewis said. "But every decision made in this building is ultimately his decision. We talk quite a bit. You know the relationship we have and once we make a decision it's our decision and I'm going to be supportive of him just as he's supportive of me, and we're going to move forward and I'm going to do the best job I can coaching this football team."
Indeed the decision-making process seemed to raise more questions from the media than the decision itself in asking if Lewis' locker-room authority had been undermined a month after he came out so forcefully against Henry.
"No, we all respect Marvin," Thornton said. "It's (Brown's) team. Jerry Jones wanted T.O. and Bill Parcells didn't want him in Dallas. The owner has the right. That happens all over the league. It's no different here than anywhere else. He hasn't lost his credibility with us. He's going to coach who's ever here."
"Everybody has a boss; we all answer to somebody," Houshmandzadeh said. "Marvin answers to Mike and we answer to Marvin."