Updated: 11:15 p.m.
Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth, the club's NFL Players Association rep, said Monday he backs teammate Cedric Benson and strongly disagrees with the agreement between the league and the union that allows eight players who are so-called repeat offenders to be disciplined for legal incidents during the lockout.
Even though the eight include the Bengals' Benson and cornerback Adam Jones, Whitworth said he had no idea of the agreement and feels that's wrong because he is their rep.
"To me, if I was told that was a make-or-break, I would have said that's a make-or-break deal to sell out eight guys," Whitworth said of the agreement struck in the wake of the new collective bargaining agreement that ended the lockout.
"I think it's the wrong decision to allow those guys to be punished. Anything you did in the lockout, I don't feel it's any different, whether it's your first, second, third or fourth offense. They weren't employed. They shouldn't be punished for it.
"I'm not saying them doing stuff is OK. (But) if no one else can get punished, the (eight players) shouldn't be able to either."
Benson leaves for New York on Monday night to appeal his three-game suspension with commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday and he's already filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.
Benson said he's surprised he's being called back into Goodell's office because after they met following an incident in an Austin, Texas bar, Goodell heard enough to decide not to suspend him before the 2010 training camp. During the lockout he was charged with assaulting a former roommate, a man Benson's lawyers claimed try to extort him.
"I was very shocked," Whitworth said of Benson's suspension. "The other one was handled. He'd already met with Goodell, so there's no issue there. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.
"I also believe the union let those eight guys down."
A NFLPA spokesman told The Cincinnati Enquirer that there'll be a union rep at Benson's hearing in front of Goodell.
GRUDEN SEEKS BETTER MIX:Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden sees too much potential to get discouraged about a young offense that couldn't score a touchdown against the 49ers Sunday. But that doesn't mean there won't be some changes when the Bengals host the Bills on Sunday at 1 p.m.
After watching tape of the 1-for-10 effort on third down in the 13-8 loss, Gurdon wants to get back to the run-pass mix he had in the game's first series as well as try to make it easier for his inside receivers to get open if teams do what the 49ers did and double Cincinnati's outside receivers.
The Bengals are also toying with platooning rookie Clint Boling and veteran Mike McGlynn at right guard in the last game before Bobbie Williams comes off the suspended list and plan to let rookie tight end Colin Cochart sit and develop behind veteran Donald Lee, a nine-year veteran just picked off the Green Bay cuts.
Gruden insisted Boling and Cochart have bright futures. But right now, solving third down takes precedence.
"We tried to throw it on first down. We did a good job the first drive of the game mixing it up very well and then later on for whatever reason didn't quite mix it up as well as I liked and when we did it didn't work out," said Gruden, who threw it 15 of 25 times on first down. "We're doing a terrible job converting on third down obviously. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you don't convert third downs your drives stop. It puts a damper on the availability of the plays that you like."
But don't look for Gruden to attack the 26th-ranked Bills defense the same way he tried to dent the top-ranked Niners run defense. While the Bengals may not have running back Cedric Benson because of a suspension, the Bills are 24th against the rush. Although it's hard to get a handle on the Bills because they've played the top-ranked Raiders rushers and the next-to-last Chiefs defense.
Gruden admitted against the Niners he got away from his rush mentality, but it was for pragmatic reasons that the Bengals dropped back 35 times and handed it off 19 times.
"You'd like to pound it, but a team like that that has seven—and eight when they put the safety down—very good run defenders, one guy, one blocker gets blown up, it's a gain of two," Gruden said.
Still, Gruden would love to rediscover the mix of the first series, the only time the Bengals had the ball more than seven plays: six passes and five runs.
With rookie wide receiver A.J. Green and his opposite number on the outside, Andre Caldwell or Jerome Simpson, getting blanketed, Gruden says he wants to make sure he gets tight end Jermaine Gresham and the backs more involved, not to mention Caldwell in the slot.
Nobody got anything on third down with quarterback Andy Dalton 4-of-10 passing for 24 yards on third down. Before the last drive, Gresham had two catches for 12 yards after getting just two catches for eight yards in Denver.
"We have to do better around him," Gruden said of Dalton. "They were playing tight man-to-man coverage and we have to do a better job of receivers getting open and with formations and our guys (getting) open. They were doubling AJ or our X. I didn't do a good enough job of getting Jermaine and our back the ball."
After the game Sunday, Gresham candidly said he had to block better to get the touchdown on that first drive when the Bengals had a first down at the 6 and settled for a field goal. But Gruden is far from down on Gresham and the other kids. Wide receiver A.J. Green had two killer false starts and Boling ended up getting benched after the second play of the second series for McGlynn.
"It was a tough series for him," Gruden said of Gresham in the first series. "He didn't have his greatest day ever. I don't think anyone on the offense can say they played well. There's major room for improvement for everyone. We still have a talented group."
Gruden didn't let Dalton off the hook for his first two NFL interceptions in the game's final 3:54. He said he shouldn't have thrown either. Not the first one, where cornerback Carlos Rogers jumped an out route, and not the second one because Gresham on his seam route with 2:16 left didn't look back to realize that Dalton had read the defense in such a manner that he threw it to his back shoulder.
"He'll be fine. I just have to do better on third down," Gruden said. "Let's keep him on the field."
Rewind to Dalton's third-down incompletion on the first series that forced the field goal:
Dalton didn't see until he began his cadence that he had someone lined up on the wrong side and Gruden blamed himself for not going to head coach Marvin Lewis for a timeout.
After Green had his toe stepped on at Thursday's practice and had to be carted off, Gruden didn't think he looked 100 percent on Sunday. Gruden says it's not serious but he thinks it affected Green's ability to get a burst.
Expect one change from Sunday to carry over. After going with Cochart the first two weeks, the Bengals have opted for Lee and put Cochart on the inactive list.
"Donald is a good player. He's been around, smart kid, he gives us a little more athleticism," Gruden said. "Colin will be a good player one day. He's just very young. And his route-running needs a little (work). Donald Lee right now is a better player."
Like Lee, a member of the Super Bowl champion Packers, McGlynn is a playoff veteran from 2010 when he centered for the Eagles.
"He did OK. He gave up one pressure," Gruden said. "The more reps he gets the better he'll be. We're not giving up on Clint at all. That's a very good player Clint was against this week (tackle Ray McDonald). He gave up a couple of pressures early and McGlynn has done enough in practice and enough in his career to warrant an opportunity if there's a shot.
"We'll evaluate them again in practice this week. If we're smart we'll use both of them because they both have qualities that make them good at guard, and both struggle at certain things that the other guy plays well."
LEWIS EXPECTS SIMPSON TO PRACTICE:Lewis expects wide receiver Jerome Simpson to practice with the team this week. Simpson, who didn't start but took about 25 snaps Sunday, is waiting to hear the outcome of the drug investigation that has targeted him.
Asked if Simpson seemed relieved to be back on the field, Lewis said, "It's a good thing. He's got to get back after it and have a good week of preparation, and he ought to."