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Hobson's Choice: No easy discipline

Q: It seems that every Monday we hear about another Bengal getting arrested for something they should not be doing. How much does Marvin Lewis have a say in what happens to that player beyond what the NFL decides?
** --Robb, Middletown, OH

ROBB:** It's not like it was back in Paul Brown's day when he could throw guys off the plane and team with a point of his index finger. But if it's not a league matter, coaches still have broad discretionary powers within the facility and Lewis has used them.

Still, it's pretty tough for a coach and a team in the current landscape to hand out discipline in a time frame they see fit and at some point I would think in the next collective bargaining the league is going to have to give some teeth back to the clubs.

Any act that is covered in the current CBA between the NFL and NFL Players Association is territory of the league and that covers the personal conduct policy as well as the policy regarding substance and alcohol abuse.

So if a player is arrested, it's in the hands of the NFL. The club always engages in the threat of a grievance if it releases someone and they can't prove the release is because of talent or conduct detrimental.

Richard Berthelsen, NFLPA general counsel, wouldn't speak to the Henry situation specifically back in June. But he said any league policy supercedes any other sanction.

"If a team were to terminate a player after it's been alleged he was involved with authorities, that would fall under the league's jurisdiction and it would have to be considered double jeopardy," Berthelsen said.

But head coaches can still fall back on that age-old assertion of "conduct detrimental," or just not play the guy for a week or two, or just not start a guy if we're not talking about crimes.

Lewis has done that, choosing not to start each Rudi and Chad Johnson in a game for violating team rules, and he deactivated Chris Henry for last year's Detroit game three days after he was arrested for marijuana possession.

We don't see 99 percent of the things that cause a coach to hand out discipline. Being late for meetings and practice, forgetting a playbook, falling asleep in a meeting, getting into fights with teammates and coaches, are, I would think, much more common than celebrated arrests, and have to be dealt with on a daily basis around the league.

And coaches can do it with fines and handing out playing time.

Hey, it's a balancing act. When you look in the NFL Fact and Record Book, they don't rank coaches on discipline, they rank them on wins.

As for Odell Thurman and Chris Henry, he can't do much because by rule, both are in the substance abuse program governed by the NFL. He went as far as he could with Thurman by basically saying he didn't want him around any more, and we'll see what he does with Henry, keeping in mind the guy wasn't driving or cited in Thurman's DUI Monday.

Lewis must be doing something right with the team as a whole. With the pundits saying the bad boys would blow it up as the nine arrests have kept coming, the Bengals have yet to lose a game and have asserted themselves as a legit Super Bowl contender.

Q: I wonder why all of our so-called fans are complaining about the offensive calls and defensive line play vs. the Steelers. All these people are complaining and I hear it on 1530 Homer at work everywhere.

What I saw at the game was a breakout game for all of Bengals Nation. We had our backs against the wall and overcame it. It to me shows a championship-caliber team.

I will bring up the Pats and their Super Bowl rings. In 2001 they barely beat us, N.Y. 17-16, the Bills 12-9 and the Dolphins 20-13 (all divisional teams).

And then they barely won all postseason games in 2003. They had nine games in regular-season play in which they won on one of those nine games by eight points. The rest of the nine were less than a touchdown. Then postseason vs. the Titans 17-14 and the Super Bowl, 32-29.

2004 reagular season vs. Colts 27-24 ( last-minute field goal) and vs. Jets, 13-7 Then they win the Super Bowl, 24-21. My point is championship teams win no matter what. Any team can win 41-10. It's when you have an off day in a hostile environment and you never give up to steal the win, that's when you have a great team. Football is a game of inches. One inch means you don't convert a fourth and goal. One inch means you overthrow your receiver and the interception is returned for a touchdown.

I think numbers prove it, not stats and total yards. With that I rest my case. Thank you for your time.
**--Joshua J., Mount Orab, OH

JOSH:** I'm with you on that. To win in Pittsburgh despite allowing six sacks and 170 yards rushing shows this is a special team that has a chance to win it all. But they won't if the quarterback keeps getting hit like that.

I'm not that down on the defense. Yeah, they could have played a lot better and will need to if this team is to go anywhere. But unlike past years they didn't fold and let Pittsburgh take the game over.

Remember, the Steelers went ahead, 17-14, only after they returned a pick to the Bengals 6. But from that point in the middle of the third quarter, they didn't let Pittsburgh steal the clock with the running game, and gave the offense time to figure out their problems long enough for those two one-play drives.

And they did come up with four turnovers (the fifth came on a fumbled punt), so it's not like the defense melted.

Bu they've got to get that protection figured out quickly because Palmer can't be taking shots like that. And they will as Eric Ghiaciuc gets better at center and they won't be playing the zone blitz in a hostile house every week.

But, Josh, good call. Football isn't a pretty game, so you better win a lot of ugly ones.

Q: I was wondering what's up with Chris Perry? I know he had knee surgery, but I was just wondering if that's what is keeping him inactive?
**--Josh, Fairfield, OH

JOSH:** The best news that came out of Monday and was buried by Odell Thurman's arrest is that it looks like Perry is going to be a factor right away once he's eligible to come off the physically unable to perform list (PUP) after the Oct. 15 Tampa Bay game.

Perry has been bothered by a knee problem as well as the ankle, but it was the surgery on his ankle in early April that knocked him out of the spring camps and led to the Bengals putting him on PUP, which means he's not on the roster and can't practice for the first six weeks of the season.

Since Perry hasn't taken a snap since last year, common sense would say that he has to practice at least two weeks to get ready for his first game. And Lewis indicated Perry looks good enough that he can come back fairly early in that process. So maybe by Game 6 on Oct. 22 against Carolina, and hopefully for Game 7 Oct. 29 against Atlanta.

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