Bengals split hairs over Utecht ruling


In 2009, former Bengals tight end Ben Utecht suffered a concussion during training camp.  The Bengals put him on injured reserve, ending his season.

In November, the Bengals decided he was healthy enough to play.  But since, by rule, he couldn’t play for them at any point over the remainder of the season, the Bengals cut him — and in turn cut off his pay.

On Wednesday, Utecht won a grievance awarding him the $926,000 in salary that the Bengals had declined to pay.

“The important thing is it is a decision for all players,” Utecht told Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “It gives a standard that teams have to fulfill and for anyone that suffers a brain injury and a standard to be rehabilitated. That’s something we have been fighting for our players for 3-4 years now.”

The Bengals have issued a statement that, while technically accurate, misses the broader point.

“The substantive issue involved in Ben’s case was when we could release him from his contract,” the Bengals said, via the team’s official website. “Ben was placed on the Reserve/Injured list on Aug. 31, ending any chance for him to play for us in 2009, so there was never a question of the Club attempting to get him ‘cleared to play.'”

Two key words are missing after “cleared to play.”  For us.  The Bengals believed he was able to play, which means they no longer had to pay him for an injury he suffered in their training camp.

It’s misleading for the Bengals to suggest that they didn’t believe Utecht was ready to play.  By cutting him off, they necessarily did.

Ultimately, the $926,000 that was saved has been lost, and Utecht has gotten what he deserves.  Hopefully, it will be easier for future players in similar situations to do the same.

16 responses to “Bengals split hairs over Utecht ruling

  1. mike brown is a cheap bum who would be managing a mcdonalds except for his pop. hope there was some penalty beyond the pay for jerking the player around. no wonder no one wants to play there.

  2. So if a player is put on IR by a team and then cut, can he then be signed and play for another team, or does the IR designation restrict him from playing for any team in a given season?

  3. Maybe if the Bengals FO didn’t have a 7 employee limit imposed by their owner, they’d staff a lawyer who’d know this stuff. Hell, I know diddly about law and could’ve told you this was illegal.

  4. I usually side with the owners on such things, but this guy had a point. You can’t just cut him loose and not pay him when he was injured in practice. I’m glad he won the case. I wonder if this problem is fixed in the new CBA?

  5. Not sure why this is a big deal. Every company I’ve ever worked for would fight you over a 10-dollar bill on an expense statement.

    This is just business. Why would any company allocate dollars to something or someone when they feel it’s not warranted?

  6. As a Bengals fan, I’m glad he got his money. But why did it take four years! This happened in 2009.

  7. As stated yesterday it was about 1mil they will pay out….Its pocket change. I do believe due to the severity of the injury teams should pay the remaining year salary to the player then release him… It was a bad signing from the start in terms if what we needed….

  8. This is really not a surprise, the money for Utecht. Unless someone can think of another example, teams dont cut players on IR. They end up sucking on the contract until the next year, then, when the player is considered healthy, they ditch him. I think its essentially because the team has no leg to stand on, they will get sued by the player, who just has to prove he was injured during a team activity.

  9. crownofthehelmet,
    The Bengals have two lawyers on staff – Mike Brown and his daughter Katie. Mike is a graduate of the Harvard Law School and is one of the brightest men in football at least from an academic perspective. Losing a case does not change that. While the penny pinching ways of the Browns drive fans, including me, crazy, Mike knows a lot about contracts and negotiation – the man fleeced the local politicians in the midst of one of the worst streaks in football – the 1990s Bengals. The Bengals were almost 1960s Steelers bad and he still got a new stadium. So he lost 900K, I think he’ll make the rent, oh wait the city pays for that too.

  10. joetoronto says:
    Jul 11, 2013 5:59 AM
    The cheapest owner in all of sports, Mike Brown.

    To go along with the dumbest azz in all of Canada! You guys are a perfect match.

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