Lewis, Bengals not bothered by benching Henry

CINCINNATI – Chris Henry sure could have helped the Cincinnati Bengals’ faltering offense.

Instead of catching passes over a beat-up New England secondary, the troubled receiver was on the sideline in a warmup outfit Sunday, his coach’s way of saying he needs to shape up.

Coach Marvin Lewis thinks it worked out well.

Even though he wasn’t listed on the injury report all week, Henry was inactive for the Bengals’ 38-13 loss to New England. The last time that Henry was inactive for a game was last December, after the first of his four arrests.

That benching didn’t seem to have much effect. Lewis thinks this one already has been felt across the team.

“I did notice a difference, actually,” Lewis said yesterday. “I didn’t have anybody taunting, in anybody’s face or anything like that. That’s where I noticed the difference: Guys doing it the way they’re asked to do it. I didn’t have to worry about the guy taking off his helmet on the field and things like that.”

Six Bengals have been arrested in the last nine months, focusing attention on how the team drafts players and how Lewis handles them.

Henry had a history of on-field eruptions at West Virginia, where he was penalized, ejected, benched, suspended and described as an embarrassment by his head coach. Lewis drafted him anyway, taking him in the third round last year.

Henry became the team’s No. 3 receiver as a rookie, and had one throwback moment. He removed his helmet in celebration after a touchdown, drawing a 15-yard penalty.

Lewis berated him for removing the helmet. He also benched him for one game after his arrest for marijuana possession last December. Mostly, Lewis defended his players while the arrests mounted, insisting that the incidents weren’t hurting the team in any way.

Lewis finally lashed out publicly after linebacker Odell Thurman was arrested and charged with drunken driving last week, drawing a season-long suspension from the NFL. Henry was a passenger in the vehicle, but wasn’t charged.

Without mentioning a player or specific incident, Lewis emphasized yesterday that he is going to enforce standards for conduct.

“Those are things we’ve got to continually get straight all the time, because I’ve got to know who I can count on and when I can count on them,” Lewis said.

By benching an offensive threat for an important game, Lewis got the locker room’s attention.

“It’s tough,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “He’s one of our best receivers. Any time you lose any player, it’s tough, especially big-play guys.”

The Bengals (3-1) have a lot more than their misconduct to mull during their bye week. Their fast start has hit the wall with a loud thud.

In the last two weeks, the defense hasn’t stopped the run and the offensive line hasn’t protected Palmer, who has fumbled five times. Lewis thinks the quarterback might be bringing some of it on himself.