Cedric Benson Suspension Is More Than Just About Games: It's An Internal Struggle With The NFLPA

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 11: Halfback Cedric Benson #32 of the Cincinnati Bengals scores a touchdown as he is chased by defensive back T.J. Ward #43 of the Cleveland Browns during the season opener at Cleveland Browns Stadium on September 11, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

According to multiple sources, Bengals running back Cedric Benson is fully expecting to play this weekend against the Buffalo Bills (something that Marvin Lewis has confirmed), while waiting for the appeals process to work itself out. Benson was in New York on Tuesday appealing his three-game suspension and until a ruling is made, Benson is eligible to play for the Bengals. Benson's lawyer David Cornwell told Bengals.com Geoff Hobson:

“It’s complicated. It’s more than a case about discipline and the issues are substantive and many,” said David Cornwell of Benson’s appeal of a three-game suspension. “I would think it would be difficult for Mr. (NFL Executive Harold) Henderson to wrap his arms around the case in time to make a decision soon and at this point it would be unfair to the team and Cedric if he couldn’t play (on Sunday), but I’m not sure what the timetable is.”

Cornwell is disputing the suspension on the grounds that there was a lockout in place when the legal incident took place and that the league has no jurisdiction, as well as Benson’s case being part of an agreement between the NFL and NFL Players  Association that is in dispute.

While figuring out if Benson is or isn't suspended, the issue is overshadowed by the possibility of an ethical issue faced with the National Football League's Players Association. Yahoo! Sports Jason Cole says it best.

The NFL Players Association can try to explain this situation in any numbers of ways, but the union has a problem to deal with internally. In the haste to get a collective bargaining agreement done in August, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith agreed that eight players whom the league designated as “repeat offenders” could be subjected to punishment under the personal conduct policy.

Included in that group is running back Cedric Benson, who was reportedly informed last week that he’s facing a three-game suspension. While no one, particularly the rank-and-file of the union, is fond of the idea of defending guys like Benson, Aqib Talib(notes) and Albert Haynesworth, there is also a pushback by that group against the perceived power of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

That’s particularly true in light of the five-game suspension Terrelle Pryor had to accept upon being admitted to the NFL. Thus, Smith has to explain to his players why he allowed Goodell such power for events during the lockout. Over the weekend, NFLPA spokesman George Atallah reacted to the news by saying: “We believe that no player should be subjected to discipline for incidents occurring during the lockout. The NFL and the NFLPA signed a side letter to the CBA that resolved and absolved 25 players of conduct related issues. We retain all of our rights and ability to challenge any player discipline related to incidents occurring during the lockout.” OK, but that leads to one question Attalah has yet to answer: If the NFLPA believes no player should be subjected to such discipline, why did it agree that any players could be disciplined?

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