T.J. Houshmandzadeh's last act as a Bengal came this weekend in Hawaii when the NFL Players Association selected a surprise choice as executive director to succeed the late Gene Upshaw.
With Houshmandzadeh's departure to Seattle via free agency and the release of Dexter Jackson, the Bengals are without their NFLPA representative (Houshmandzadeh) and alternate (Jackson).
On Sunday night in Hawaii the players tapped Washington, D.C., attorney DeMaurice Smith, the longshot in a field that included former NFL players Troy Vincent and Trace Armstrong, and high-profile sports attorney David Cornwell.
"It's not an individual team issue," Houshmandzadeh said last week before heading to Hawaii. "It's who is best for all the players and I'm going to get as much information as I can. I'll talk to some of (the Bengals) and see what they have to say and I've got some questions of my own."
Defensive tackle John Thornton, a Bengal on the free-agent market, couldn't say he was surprised.
"The big debate was if it was going to be a former player," Thornton said Monday morning. "Gene was a former player and he did such a great job. But the other question was if a player would be too close to the fight. For me, all four were good choices, and I think the guys voting are all intelligent guys."
The potential big fight is the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement and the election of a relatively unknown candidate doesn't do anything to lessen the unpredictability of the negotiations.
"I would think, in the end, the players and owners aren't going to let a good thing go," Thornton said. "We can't afford to take a step back. The NFL is in the best shape of the other pro sports. We don't play 162 games, but it's spread out over the year with the draft, offseason workouts, the combine. It's a good setup. And the NFL has great fan support. You see it when someone gets suspended for steroids and it doesn't seem to be that big of a deal like it is in other sports."
The Bengals figure to choose a new NFLA rep and alternate some time in the spring. Thornton's prediction: Six-year running back Chris Perry.
"He's up on the issues," Thornton said. "He knows what's going on."