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Grievance said filed over Cardinals’ benching of Boomer Esiason

August 27, 1997

PHOENIX (AP) _ The NFL Players Association has accused the Arizona Cardinals of benching former quarterback Boomer Esiason last season to avoid $350,000 in performance incentives, according to a news report.

The Arizona Republic said Tuesday the association filed a grievance against the Cardinals on behalf of Esiason, now the Cincinnati Bengals’ No. 2 quarterback.

Both Esiason’s agent, Jerrold Colton, and the Cardinals’ vice president of player personnel, Bob Ferguson, declined comment, the Republic said.

The Cardinals released Esiason on March 17 at his request after coach Vince Tobin said Kent Graham would be the starter this season.

The Cardinals face the Bengals in Cincinnati in Sunday’s season opener.

Esiason was honored as the NFL offensive player of the month in November 1996 for performances that included 522 yards passing in a 37-34 overtime victory at Washington while Graham was injured.

Then, with Graham’s strained knee healed, Tobin benched Esiason when Arizona faced the Redskins on Dec. 7, and Esiason walked off the job for three days, accusing the team of benching him because he was approaching the incentives.

He later recanted and said he walked off because benching him showed a lack of respect.

Esiason could have received $100,000 if he had passed for 2,300 yards, $50,000 if his rating was at least 75, and $150,000 in he participated in 60 percent of the team’s offensive plays and two other conditions were met.

He finished with 2,293 yards passing, a rating of 70.6 and participation in 51 percent of the offensive plays. Other necessary factors _ that the team finish with more yards than in 1995 and win at least seven games _ were met.

The Republic said it was told by association sources that an independent arbiter will hear the grievance in Tempe next month, probably in the week before the Cardinals’ Sept. 21 open date.

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