On Monday afternoon the Bears announced the release of running back Cedric Benson. The announcement comes as the result of Benson’s second arrest in five weeks for alcohol related incidents. The Bears organization continues to show a zero tolerance policy for off the field issues starting with Tank Johnson and continuing with Cedric Benson.
General Manager Jerry Angelo stated in a news conference on Monday afternoon that “Cedric displayed a pattern of behavior we will not tolerate.” He continued by saying ”Everyone in this organization is held accountable for their actions.”
Angelo went on to summarize the Bears policy by saying “When individual priorities overshadow team goals, we suffer the consequences as a team. Those who fail to understand the importance of ‘team’ will not play for the Chicago Bears.”
The move will allow the Bears to escape from the media circus surrounding Benson and focus on football going into training camp. It also puts new pressure on rookie running back Matt Forte, who will battle with career back up Adrian Peterson for the starting job. The Bears have not had a chance to see how Forte plays with pads in a contact situation but so far they seem very happy with his progress. However, unless Forte proves incredibly talented in the preseason, I would expect the Bears to use Peterson as a starting back to utilize his veteran experience and ease Forte in on third downs until he looks ready to assume the role of starting back.
Getting out from under the shadow and constant attention on Benson could prove beneficial for both Forte and Peterson. Each will have far more opportunities to work with the starting offensive then they ever anticipated and can push each other in what could prove to be a fun to watch training camp competition. Peterson has long been a favorite among fans and players as a hard working, team driven player. The more time Forte spends learning under Peterson instead of Benson is an added bonus for all Bears fans. Any ideas of inviting Shaun Alexander to training camp should be thrown out the window. I say let the two kids fight it out and give the offense something positive to talk about and look forward to this season.
As for Benson, unlike many other players in the league that have gotten into trouble with the law, Benson has never showed enough flashes of talent to warrent other teams to come calling. I would be very surprised to see Benson show up on another NFL roster this year. The only reason the Bears felt obligated to extend so much latitude with Benson’s poor play was to attempt to justify using a first round pick on him. Benson’s best bet is to stay in game shape and wait for running backs to start hitting the injury list. My bet is a team will sign Benson in late preseason or early in the season after the injury bug hits their backfield. *sniff* *sniff* Do I smell a couple games with the Houston Texans in his future?
I wouldn’t even put it past Benson to go to another team mid-season and put up a couple 100-yard games. He showed up to training camp slimmed down and in great shape to run the football well. Whatever team that takes him will also quickly find out that Benson has far more weaknesses then he does strengths. He is a downhill runner without almost no ability to turn a corner or make defenders miss tackles. Fans and coaches alike grew tired of his incredibly poor pass blocking skills that frequently left his quarterback kissing dirt. Finally, his biggest down fall is his inability to stay off the injured list. Every year he manages to get an injury that puts an end to his season, not a good quality for a running back that wants to use a punishing style of running straight between the tackles.
There is also another quality about Benson that may prove to be his biggest downfall when attracting a new team. I don’t quite know how to put a name on it, so I’ll just call it “balls.” Cedric Benson doesn’t have any balls. No one is asking for a player to play injured and risk his career, but in any professional sport there comes a time in the career of an athlete when they play with a little pain. Many fans still harbor a grudge with Benson for going down with an injury in the Super Bowl and went straight for the bench without even an ounce of fight. The biggest stage in a young players career, the chance to be a champion, and Benson was content grabbing some bench. No one in Chicago really wanted to say it, but now that he’s gone I think it should be said now, Benson really doesn’t have any balls to be an NFL running back.
In three seasons Benson rushed for 1,593 yard and 10 touchdowns in 37 games. Those are the type of numbers the Bears expected him to gain in a single season. Now he will have to try to do it someplace else.