NFL reduces Benson suspension to one game

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The NFL has reduced the suspension of Bengals running back Cedric Benson to one game.  He’ll miss the teams post-bye trip to Seattle.

The NFL initially had suspended three games under the personal conduct policy.  Benson appealed the decision, and he filed a non-injury grievance and an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board.

Along with the suspension, for which he’ll lose one week of pay, Benson also has been fined a game check.

The five-page decision from hearing officer Harold R. Henderson, a copy of which PFT has obtained, points out that Benson has been arrested four times in four years, and that his most recent two arrests were resolved by a plea agreement of August 29, 2011, which resulted in Benson serving five days in jail.  Henderson finds the plea agreement “to be sufficient basis to impose discipline” under the personal conduct policy.

Since the plea agreement applied to an incident from 2010 and a 2011 arrest that occurred during the lockout, the decision takes a little steam out of the notion that Benson is being punished for misconduct occurring at a time when the league had locked out the players.  But since Henderson did not specifically find that discipline was being imposed only for the 2010 incident, Benson could continue to pursue arguments that at least part of the discipline arises from an incident for which he never should have been disciplined.

Complicating matters for the NFLPA is the fact that Henderson rejected the union’s claim that the August 4, 2011 letter agreement regarding lockout misconduct preserves the ability of Benson and seven other repeat offenders to avoid discipline.  This could keep the NLRB claim against the union alive, and it could make things politically delicate for the NFLPA and its executive director, DeMaurice Smith, as Smith approaches the end of his three-year contract and presumably hopes to be re-elected.

UPDATE: Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer discussed the news on PFT Live.

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