Some of the X-factors in Sunday's Paul Brown Stadium opener (1 p.m.-ESPN 1530) against the 49ers:
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF CEDRIC BENSON
Benson always runs hard and he figures to be running even harder Sunday.
On Tuesday, Benson is appealing a three-game suspension for violating the personal conduct policy even though the league has failed to suspend other repeat offenders. Yahoo.com reported Saturday that Benson was one of eight players (including Bengals cornerback Adam Jones) that the NFLPA agreed with the NFL could be suspended for incidents during the lockout.
ProFootballTalk.com said Saturday that an Aug. 4 letter signed by NFL general counsel Jeff Pash and NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith "seems to indicate that eight players deemed repeat offenders will be subject to discipline for incidents arising between March 11 and August 3."
But NFLPA spokesman George Atallah sent the web site an email that claimed otherwise:
"We believe that no player should be subjected to discipline for incidents occurring during the lockout. The NFL and the NFLPA signed a side letter to the CBA that resolved and absolved the overwhelming majority of players of conduct-related issues. We retain all of our rights and ability to challenge any player discipline related to incidents occurring during the lockout."
Two of the eight named in the letter, Bucs cornerback Aquib Talib and Titans receiver Kenny Britt, reportedly have not been suspended despite their plethora of legal problems. Complicating matters is that Benson has served five days to clear up his two incidents in Texas in which one occurred before the lockout and one during. Plus, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell chose not to suspend him after the first one.
All Benson knows is that he has Sunday and the 49ers.
KEEP AN EYE ON FB CHRIS PRESSLEY AND TE COLIN COCHART
Sunday's loss in Denver had a lot to do with the Bengals failing on three straight third-and-ones to open the game. Two key short-yardage figures, Pressley and Cochart, are going to be matched up with excellent players in this one. Pressley gets Pro Bowl middle linebacker Patrick Willis and Cochart, like he did last week, projects to blocking fast outside linebackers like Ahmad Brooks.
Cochart, the rookie free agent from South Dakota State, figures he was matched 75 percent of the time with Von Miller, the second pick in the draft that has been as advertised. Fair to say Cochart never had anything like him lined up over him in the Missouri Valley Conference.
"Sometimes I held my own, sometimes he got the best of me," Cochart said. "He's a tough, fast, physical guy and we're going to get the same thing from the 49ers this week."
The Bengals like Cochart's aggressiveness and technique in the run game, as well as his hands, and he knows he's going to have a learning curve early. Asked about the speed in the preseason compared to now he said, "Unbelievably faster."
The major problem in Denver in the short yardage was miscommunication, the Bengals say, and not a physical mismatch so they should have an easier time at home. Not so with Willis, a tackling machine. Pressley has gone against the Ravens' Ray Lewis, but this won't be the same.
"(Willis) is a different type of player," Pressley said. "He's more athletic, but not as explosive. He's a technician. You can't just come at him. He knows how to work against power."
SPECIAL TEAMS IS GOING TO LEAVE ITS MARK SOMEWHERE
Bengals punter Kevin Huber has had the best two months of three-year NFL career and he says a lot of it has to do with how former NFL punter Greg Montgomery streamlined his form during the offseason. He'll get a test Sunday against 49ers return man Ted Ginn after Ginn returned a kick and punt for a TD in the opener two weeks ago.
"You're looking for that perfect 48-yard punt with hang time to the sidelines," Huber said. "You're always trying to use the sideline as the 12th man."
The Bengals have their own game-changer in Brandon Tate on kicks and punts, and while Tate is clearly feeling his way with some tentative punt returns, special teams coach Darrin Simmons is extremely confident he'll get there.
"You've got to remember, this is only his second year in the NFL; he hardly played as a rookie," Simmons said. "All he has to do is carry over to the game what he does in practice. He's been tremendous in practice. Fantastic. He's really into it. A hard worker. He knows that's why he's here. Once he gets more comfortable, he'll be fine."
Simmons' advice is simple:
"Be decisive. Don't overthink it. Play ball."