Bengals brace for key CBA issues; CB depth a question

A.J. Green

Is this the week that is?

With a new collective bargaining agreement reportedly in the grasp, the Bengals could finally get some answers on two of the major questions in their 2011 plans. The Associated Press reported Sunday that the "stumbling blocks" to a deal are a rookie wage scale and the status of veteran free agents. The situations of Cincinnati's top draft pick, A.J. Green, as well as unsigned veteran cornerback Johnathan Joseph and running back Cedric Benson are tied heavily into both issues.

Cornerback has suddenly become a huge question for a Bengals depth chart that was once so heavily stocked just last training camp. Adam Jones indicated in a Channel 9 interview Sunday following his disputed arrest in a Cincinnati bar that he "just had" surgery on the neck he injured last season, opening up speculation about his medical availability for this season. Jones was wearing a neck brace and told the station he'd been in it for four weeks.

"I just had surgery. So why would I be resisting arrest?" Jones asked the camera.

According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, Jones and agent Peter Schaffer are vehemently denying the charges of disorderly conduct while intoxicated and resisting arrest stemming from an incident at the Scene Bar in downtown Cincinnati at 2:35 a.m. Sunday. Schaffer told the paper Jones could file charges against police.

Jones suffered a herniated neck disk Oct. 24 in Atlanta and missed the rest of the season when he underwent surgery shortly after he took a shot in the neck on a punt return in the game against the Falcons. Since the March 11 lockout, Jones hasn't been allowed to rehab with the Bengals or have any contact with the team. He said before the lockout that he was hoping to get rid of the neck collar at some point in the spring and that he expected to be ready for training camp if it started on time on July 28.

And he did participate in helmet-less voluntary drills last month, according to media reports. But his comments to Channel 9 Sunday about a recent surgery and the presence of a neck brace now raise questions about his ability to at least begin this season with two neck surgeries so close together.

The Bengals had no comment on the arrest as they wait for the legal process to play out.

It looks like the CBA talks are going to play out before that. The lawyers meet Monday before the owners and players sit down Tuesday. The AP said that other major issues, splitting total revenues, the salary cap, fewer offseason workouts, and the length of the CBA "are close to being completed."

That leaves how and how much to sign the rookies and if the owners can get more restrictions in free agency. The clock is ticking to July 15; the deadline that many feel has to be hit in order to prevent the loss of preseason games.

The AP cited a source saying the players "vehemently oppose" more restrictions in free agency. With Joseph and Benson among more than 500 players with at least four years experience ready to hit free agency, a source told the AP, "Maybe for one year there might be an extended right of first refusal as a compromise."

The AP said the main disagreement on the rookie wage scale is how many picks in the first round would be under the scale with the owners pushing for longer contracts. "Perhaps eight picks, perhaps twice that many," the AP said. Green, the No. 4 pick, is going to have one of the more elite contacts, but it's unclear how much negotiation would be involved in getting him into camp on time.

With Joseph unsigned and Jones in a neck brace, the next guys on the depth chart are third-year player Morgan Trent and second-year man Brandon Ghee, a third-rounder in last year's draft. Trent was the third corner as a rookie before Jones replaced him last season and Ghee, fighting injuries, only appeared in six games. Trent went down with a season-ending knee injury a few weeks after Jones did, only played in eight games himself, and his situation is unclear because of the lockout.

The Bengals also drafted Southern Illinois cornerback Korey Lindsey in the seventh round.

Schaffer, Jones' agent, told The Enquirer that another female threw a punch at his wife while they were celebrating his wife's birthday with neighbors and Jones told police that he wanted to file charges. When witnesses said Jones "uttered some profanities," Schaffer said Jones was arrested and when his client offered to take a breathalyzer, one wasn't given.

"He did not do anything wrong; for him to go through this is a shame," Schaffer told the paper. "He's doing the right thing by not taking the law in his own hands. Adam has done a great job of changing his image and turning his whole life around. We will explore every possible legal action to make sure the right thing occurs."

Jones, 27, signed with the Bengals in May 2010 after sitting out the 2009 season following a raft of legal problems that got him suspended for the 2007 season and released at the end of the '08 season from Dallas. Jones' only previous incident in Cincinnati came after the Oct. 10 game against Tampa Bay, when he was in a minor car accident and police detained him for what turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. The next day Cincinnati police chief Tom Streicher offered private and public apologies to Jones.

The NFL has said even though it's in a lockout, the league's personal conduct policy is still in place. The Dallas Morning News reported that when Jones came back from his year suspension on Aug. 28, 2008, "he was told any further problems could result in a lifetime ban."

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has shown he'll listen to murky cases. Last year he chose not to discipline Benson after hearing his side of the story following an incident in which he was charged in an Austin, Texas bar.

But with Jones surfacing in a neck brace and talking about a surgery so close to training camp, he may not be available any time soon because of his medical condition.

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