CINCINNATI — After watching nine of his players get arrested in the past 13 months, Cincinnati Bengals president Mike Brown said Friday that the team would change its approach on draft day.
"There may be some gifted athletes we won't pick that we might have picked a year ago," Brown said on Friday, a day that one of Brown's players, wide receiver Chris Henry, spent in jail in Kentucky.
Kenton County Judge Douglas Grothaus sentenced Henry to two days in jail for giving alcohol to minors in a Covington hotel room last year. The judge called Henry a "cancer."
Henry's sentencing came three days after cornerback Johnathan Joseph, the team's No. 1 draft pick in 2006, was arrested in Boone County for marijuana possession.
In all, six of the Bengals' 16 draft picks in the 2005 and 2006 classes have been arrested since the start of the 2006 calendar year.
"I've never thought the word 'cancer' was appropriate for a human being," Brown told Bronson.
"People aren't cancerous. They misbehave. I would not use that word. But he deserved to be scolded and it did not displease me that the judge did that. We're trying to do the same thing with Chris, to send a message to other players."
Brown and his head coach, Marvin Lewis, have declined to be interviewed this week about Joseph's arrest, Henry's sentencing or the trend of off-field trouble. In fact, since Lewis' hiring in January 2003, Brown no longer grants interview requests except in rare occasions.
The Bengals now have a 24-hour line that their players can call for a ride, he said.
Brown also said the league and players union limit team discipline.
"There's only so much we can do in these situations," Brown said. Because of NFL and players union rules, "We can't act as forcefully as we did in the past. ... Our hands are tied. We can't fine, sanction or fire a player."
Lewis, like other NFL head coaches, does have disciplinary powers with players available under the heading "Conduct detrimental to club," as spelled out in the league's collective bargaining agreement with the players union.
Clubs may suspend a player for a period up to four weeks but not to exceed four weeks, according to the binding agreement. A club/coach also can fine a player "an amount equal to one week's salary."
Henry had a base salary of $310,000 in 2006, and each of his 17 weekly game checks was worth $18,235.
Lewis disciplined starting tailback Rudi Johnson and linebacker Odell Thurman in separate games in 2005. Lewis made the players sit out the first series for breaking unspecific team rules. Lewis repeated the move for Johnson this past season, not starting him in the San Diego game.
In terms of possible NFL discipline, Henry could be suspended for four games in the 2007 season for a second violation of the league's substance abuse policy. Henry already has one strike against him for a guilty plea in a marijuana possession case in 2005 in Kenton County. If NFL commissioner Roger Goodell decides that Henry's latest plea in Kenton County on Thursday is a second violation of the policy, he gets the four-game vacation without pay.
Still, Brown anticipates that Henry will be back for a third season with the Bengals in 2007.
"I don't think it's wrong to give people a chance and that includes Chris Henry," Brown said. "He has paid a real price for it in his personal life and for us, and I don't abandon hope for him at all."
Thurman is serving a one-year suspension for a third violation of the substance abuse policy. Brown referred to Thurman and Henry as "broken records" in his interview with Bronson.
"Everyone here is fed up with this including Marvin and me, and we want it to stop," Brown said.
By Mark Curnutte, The Cincinnati Enquirer