Henry signed a two-year deal Tuesday with the team that let him go after he was arrested for the fifth time, a decision that seemed to mark a change in philosophy for owner Mike Brown. Instead, it was an aberration. The Bengals took him back at Brown's behest.
Coach Marvin Lewis, who had no interest in bringing back the troubled receiver, said Brown wanted to give Henry yet another chance.
"I obviously know that at the end of the day, that the owner has the final say-so on whether or not he wants to give a guy an opportunity or not," Lewis said, following an evening practice. "Mike has wanted to give Chris this opportunity, and asks that we do the best job that we can to try to prepare him and get him ready to play football."
The Bengals released Henry after he was accused of punching a college student and breaking his car window with a beer bottle in March. Henry was one of 10 Bengals arrested during a 14-month span -- a local judge referred to the receiver as a "one-man crime wave."
The decision to let Henry go seemed to mark a major change for the Bengals owner.
"His conduct can no longer be tolerated," Brown said at the time. "The Bengals tried for an extended period of time to support Chris and his potentially bright career. We had hoped to guide him toward an appropriate standard of personal responsibility that this community would support and that would allow him to play in the NFL. ... But those efforts end today, as we move on with what is best for our team."
Brown declined to be interviewed Tuesday about his change of heart. However, during an interview last month, Brown said he still believed in giving players chances to change their lives.
"I guess the world is divided up between redeemers and non-redeemers," Brown said at the time. "I happen to be a redeemer. I think people can be made better and right. If that's a fault, so be it."
Henry has been in trouble repeatedly since the Bengals drafted him in the third round in 2005. Henry was suspended by the league for two games in 2006 and for the first eight games of last season for repeatedly violating its conduct policies.
He was suspended indefinitely by the league following his latest arrest, the one that led the Bengals to release him. After a mistrial, prosecutors dropped the charges against Henry and his suspension was reduced to four games.
Henry said the Bengals were the only team willing to offer a contract at this time.
"My agents spoke with other teams, but as far as signing, there was none of them," Henry said, dressed in street clothes while the team finished practice.
Before the Bengals made their offer, Henry worried that he might never play in the NFL again.
"To have that taken away from you, that can be really hard," said Henry, who has the NFL's shield tattooed on the back of his right hand. "That would have been a tough thing to go through. I kind of went through that. I was scared at one point that I wouldn't have the opportunity to be back on the field."
With Brown interested in bringing him back, Lewis talked to Henry last week, getting an idea of how he was handling his life.
"I think the last three or four months have been very humbling for Chris," Lewis said. "The week since the charges were dropped and his phone didn't ring, I think that was also humbling."
The Bengals could use another receiver now that Pro Bowl receiver Chad Johnson has a sprained left shoulder, suffered during a 27-10 preseason loss to Detroit on Sunday night. Johnson waved away reporters trying to get an update on his condition after practice Tuesday.
Pro Bowl receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh also missed practice because of a hamstring injury that has kept him out of the preseason games and team workouts.
Henry won't be able to practice with the team during his four-week suspension in the regular season. Once it ends, the Bengals will decide whether to add him to the team.
"Once off suspension, we'll have an opportunity to see whether or not he'd be a positive addition to the football team and go from there," Lewis said.