Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry has been cleared by the NFL to return to practice, despite the fact he still has two games remaining in his suspension, and the third-year veteran was on the field with teammates for Wednesday morning's workout.
Henry was suspended by commissioner Roger Goodell this spring for the first eight games of the regular season for violations of the NFL personal conduct policy. He is not eligible to play in a game until the Bengals' contest at Baltimore on Nov. 11.
But the clearance to begin practicing, similar to the one Goodell granted Dallas defensive tackle Tank Johnson, who is also suspended for eight games, will provide Henry with an opportunity to work on his conditioning in a football environment.
In announcing the eight-game suspension, Goodell delineated several criteria that Henry had to meet to be able to return. Clearly, the wide receiver has been in compliance conditions that were mandated by the league.
"The commissioner, since this is kind of new territory, is
trying to give these guys an opportunity to come back and be around
their teammates more," coach Marvin Lewis said. "I think it's a
positive step for him, and hopefully he understands he's had a long
journey and that hopefully he sees the fact that it's almost
Henry, 24, was arrested four times in a 14-month stretch. He was suspended for two games in 2006 and fined $20,000 in addition to the game checks he forfeited. The suspension for eight games this season cost Henry $230,294 in base salary.
Henry, one of the NFL's premier No. 3 receivers, has 67 receptions for 1,027 yards and 15 touchdowns in 27 regular-season appearances. He has an unusually-high average of one touchdown catch every 4.5 receptions, and Henry has a 15.3-yard average per catch-- evidence of his big-play abilities.
Henry typically plays on the outside with Chad Johnson in the Bengals' three-wideout formations, allowing T.J. Houshmandzadeh to operate out of the slot, where he is most effective. The Cincinnati offense has struggled uncharacteristically at times this season, and part of the problem has been the inability to find a No. 3 wide receiver with the kind of play-maker skills that Henry possesses.
"As soon as we get him back, I'm fired up," quarterback Carson Palmer said. "How can you not be? His production speaks for
itself. And it will be great when we get him back."
Henry was a third-round pick in the 2005 draft out of West Virginia University.
Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.