Marvin Lewis: Cedric Benson to play

Updated: September 28, 2011, 5:12 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

CINCINNATI -- Running back Cedric Benson will play for the Cincinnati Bengals against the Buffalo Bills despite his pending three-game suspension, coach Marvin Lewis said Wednesday.

"If we don't hear something generally by Tuesday, we're going to assume everything is going to go status quo," Lewis said. "Otherwise it puts you at a bit of a disadvantage. But we're prepared either way. We've been on this thing."

Benson had a hearing to appeal the suspension Tuesday. Benson and his attorney, David Cornwell, expressed numerous objections to the running back's three-game suspension in a hearing with NFL official Harold Henderson, a source familiar with the case told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Henderson considered Benson's evidence and arguments, but did not give an indication as to when he will issue a ruling.

"The meeting was the most stressful thing for me," Benson said Wednesday. "I wanted that to go well and I felt it did. That's behind me now. We'll hope for no issues at all but if for some reason they want to bully the system and create an issue, then I've got to be receptive to that."

Benson also filed a non-injury grievance challenging the application of the NFL's conduct policy at a time when there was a lockout, no collective bargaining agreement, no union, and Benson was not an employee of any team. Benson was arrested in July and charged with misdemeanor assault after being involved in an altercation with a former roommate in Austin, Texas.

Benson believes that the interpretation and enforceability of the side-letter agreement between the NFL Players Association and the NFL must be resolved either through the non-injury grievance or by the National Labor Relations Board before a decision can be made in the disciplinary appeal.

A source confirmed to ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen on Sunday that Benson has filed an unfair labor practice charge against the NFLPA with the NLRB regarding the side-letter agreement.

It was unclear whether the league could fine or suspend players who got in trouble during the NFL's 4½-month lockout, when there was no collective bargaining agreement. The NFLPA had decertified as part of the labor dispute.

In the side-letter agreement, the league and the NFLPA eventually agreed that eight players (including Benson) could be disciplined for incidents in the offseason, while 25 others would not be.

"I was really caught off-guard by the players association, honestly, because that is a players association," Benson said. "They are supposed to be an all-for-one type deal, you know? They are supposed to have the best interest of the players in mind. Unfortunately with the new comings of this letter or agreement, it represents the exact opposite."

Two union representatives were at the hearing Tuesday on Benson's behalf.

"Our responsibility is to protect the rights of all our players," NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said. "That is what we did (at the hearing)."

Benson was arrested during the summer of 2010 over an alleged bar fight in Austin and charged with misdemeanor assault. Benson met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after the incident and was not disciplined.

Benson reached a plea agreement to settle both the 2010 and 2011 court cases and served five days in a Texas jail before this season began.

It would be a big setback for the Bengals to lose Benson, who has been their leading rusher each of the last three seasons. Backup Bernard Scott has played sparingly, carrying only eight times during the first three games.

The Bengals have given tryouts to running backs Larry Johnson and Clinton Portis, but Lewis said Wednesday they weren't in reaction to Benson's possible suspension.

Information from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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