The referee sends a player from the field for illegal equipment, blood, etc. While off the field correcting the situation and before signaled to re-enter by the referee, the player a.) clothes lines a player on the field as the player runs down the touchline with the ball. b.) strikes a player on the bench. c.) uses foul/abusive language towards the referee. The question is whether the team will be playing short from that point on in the match? Several “senior referees” respond that because the player is not on the field, the referee cannot make the team play short handed from the send-off for the misconduct.

USSF answer (August 7, 2010):
The “senior referees” should consider packing it in — or start taking memory pills. A player sent from the field to correct equipment problems (or to receive medical attention) is still a player and counted as being part of the team on the field.

Law 3 (in the Interpretations of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees) tells us:

Player outside the field of play
If, after leaving the field of play to correct equipment or kit, to be treated for an injury or bleeding, because he has blood on his kit or for any other reason with the referee’s permission, a player re-enters the field of play without the referee’s permission, the referee must:
– stop play (although not immediately if the player does not not interfere with play or if the advantage can be applied)
– caution the player for entering the field of play without permission
– order the player to leave the field of play if necessary (infringement of Law 4)

If the referee stops play, it must be restarted
– with an indirect free kick for the opposing team from the position of the ball when play was stopped (see Law 13 — Position of Free Kick) if there is no other infringement
– in accordance with Law 12 if the player infringes this Law

Scenario (a) only: The referee must punish the more serious of the two simultaneous acts of foul/misconduct and send off the player who was off the field with the referee’s permission for violent conduct or serious foul play (see below). Because this player re-entered the field to clothesline the opponent, Law 12 governs the restart, which will be a direct free kick from the place where the player struck his opponent. This player’s team must play short for the remainder of the game.

In short: In scenario (a), send off for serious foul play if competing for the ball or for violent conduct if not competing for the ball and restart with a direct free kick where the “clothesline” occurred; scenario (b), send off for violent conduct and restart with dropped ball where the ball was when play was stopped; and, in scenario (c), send off for abusive language and restart with a dropped ball where the ball was when play was stopped. In all three scenarios, the team plays down.