Hobson's Choice: Count in Big Ben

Greetings from Patriots' country. If Big Ben is expected to miss any regular season games, will the Bengals be less inclined to get Carson on the field for the season opener?
**--Marcus, Concord, MA

MARCUS:* With the incomparable Ed Bouchette, of the *Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporting that the Steelers are confident Roethlisberger is going to be ready for the Sept. 7 opener against Miami, all such talk should cease. If you've been matching up Charlie Batch and Doug Johnson, stop. If you're thinking about reviewing that Anthony Wright-Tommy Maddox game from 2003, don't. It looks like the kid is going to be all right, and thank God.

(By the way, Wright's Ravens beat Maddox's Steelers, 13-10, in OT in the '03 finale Baltimore didn't have to win after Cleveland upset the Bengals.)

With Roethlisberger being upgraded to fair Tuesday and a release from the hospital maybe as soon as this weekend, it's doubtful the Steelers would try to find another veteran to go with Batch.

Maddox is still looking for work and apparently his agent called his old team Monday in the wake of the accident. It's not the Steelers' style to go get Kerry Collins. Heck, this defense, some of this offensive line, and Hines Ward got Kordell Stewart to an AFC title game.

Even though Maddox got run out of town last season when he struggled during Roethlisberger's knee injury and he didn't make any new friends by not showing up for the presentation of the Super Bowl rings, he still makes more sense than Collins because he knows the offense. But it looks like Big Ben is going to be tolling even if he may not be ready for the start of training camp or the preseason opener.

It does make you wonder about contracts. From the Bengals' standpoint, it's believed they don't put specific clauses in contracts to prevent players from doing so-called dangerous activities.

Apparently, that is covered in boilerplate language in the standard player contract and in signing bonus language. The buzz phrase is "significant risk," but that might be hard to prove in Pennsylvania because there isn't even a law forcing somebody to wear a helmet while driving a motorcycle.

According to Tony Grossi, who covers the Browns for The Cleveland Plain-Dealer, the club specifically prohibited 2004 first-rounder Kellen Winslow from riding a motorcycle and when he tore up his knee in an accident, he was liable to lose $10 million in bonuses.

Instead, the Browns negotiated a one-year extension of the contract in which they gave Winslow the chance to earn all but $1 million of that money back if he plays at a high level.

But that was under the old collective bargaining agreement. Here's one of the reasons Bengals president Mike Brown didn't vote for the new CBA back in March. Most of the non-economic factors such as issues like this had yet to be placed in front of the owners before the vote. Brown didn't find out about most of them until he got back to Cincinnati from the Dallas meeting.

And this is one of the reasons Brown thinks the players got such a one-sided deal this time around. Grossi says there is now a capped amount for what a team can take from a player if he violates certain terms of his contract. He says under the new CBA, the Browns could have only recouped about $2 million (25 percent) from Winslow.

With the CBA still getting lowered into place, teams are learning on the fly what the new rules are and which contracts and which clauses are grandfathered in. Throw in the presidential-like coverage of Roethlisberger's injury, and all teams are no doubt going to visit the problem.

In the old days, the Bengals had the power to sire "The Pickens Clause." The Steelers may not have the juice to enforce a motorcycle mandate.

But, in the end, we're just happy Big Ben is fine, and here's hoping he meets Carson Palmer Sept. 24 at Heinz.

It's only right, right?

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