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Bengals activate troubled wide receiver Henry

Second-year wide receiver Chris Henry, who missed the Cincinnati Bengals' last two games while serving league-imposed sanctions, was activated Friday from the reserve-suspended list and will play in Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons.

There had been plenty of speculation revolving around how coach Marvin Lewis might handle the Henry situation. Henry practiced all week with the Bengals, since his suspension was technically lifted after last week's game, but the club had a one-week roster exemption through next Monday, and Lewis hinted he might not make a decision on the talented but troubled wide receiver until Sunday morning.

But with the Cincinnati wide receiver corps decimated by injuries and starters T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson the only healthy players at the position, Lewis had little recourse but to activate Henry for the game.

To create a roster spot, the Bengals placed wide receiver Antonio Chatman on injured reserve with what is believed to be a sports hernia. A four-year veteran who was signed in the offseason as an unrestricted free agent, Chatman had just three catches for 22 yards. He returned four kickoffs for a 23.3-yard average and eight punts for an average of 6.6 yards.

It marked the second week in a row Cincinnati was forced to place a wide receiver on injured reserve. Last week, second-year wideout Tab Henry was lost for the season to a hip injury. Kelley Washington will miss a second straight game with a strained hamstring. This week the team auditioned veteran free agent Peter Warrick, a former Bengals first-round draft pick, but held off on offering him a contract.

It isn't likely the Bengals will sign Warrick before Sunday's game. But since he is familiar with the offense, he could be added in the near future, especially if the injury situation at wide receiver doesn't improve.

Henry, who was arrested four times in a six-month stretch of the offseason, was suspended by the league for two games earlier this month for violations of the substance abuse policy and the personal conduct policy. The suspension cost Henry $41,176 of his scheduled base salary of $350,000 for 2006, plus an additional $20,000 fine.

Since he followed the terms of his suspension, Henry became immediately eligible to return to the active roster on Monday and to play against the Falcons, provided the Bengals activated him.

In the first three games of the season, Henry had 11 catches for 177 yards and two touchdowns. Lewis then benched him for one game because of his various off-field incidents, and that was followed a week later by the NFL's suspension.

Last Thursday, prosecutors received a continuance in a trial that was to have started that day, stemming from a June 2 arrest in which Henry was charged with speeding and operating a vehicle under the influence. That trial was rescheduled for Nov. 27. If Henry is convicted of either charge or enters a guilty plea to a lesser charge in the case, he could be subject to additional league sanctions.

Henry, 23, can still be suspended or fined, or both, once the charges from the June incident are resolved.

Police reports show that Henry registered a blood-alcohol level of .092 on a breathalyzer test. The legal limit in Ohio is .080. The speeding charge against Henry is a minor misdemeanor in Ohio and the OVI charge is a first-degree misdemeanor. But no matter the status under Ohio law, a conviction or plea deal would still represent a repeat offense by Henry in the league's eyes.

Any subsequent sanctions would likely be harsher than the two-game suspension that just ended.

In 2005, Henry played in 14 games as a rookie and posted 31 receptions for 422 yards and six touchdowns. The former West Virginia University star, a third-round choice in 2005, is regarded as one of the NFL's top No. 3 wide receivers.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click hereInsider.