A Troubled Man

By Cedric Golden
Updated: June 10, 2008

TEXAS — Cedric Benson has issues.

Is being the biggest draft bust from Texas since Mike Williams an issue?

Yeah, it became an issue Monday when Benson was fired by the Chicago Bears after his second arrest — but not his biggest arrest — during the last five weeks.

What about fizzling out in Chicago after three mediocre seasons?

Huge issue, but it’s running second to his legal problems.

So what problem is bigger than his ordinary NFL performances and the local court systems?

That’s an easy one: The former Longhorn’s judgment is his biggest problem.

I’ve been around Benson for years. He’s a smart guy. But even smart people can make some real dumb decisions.

If he were stone-cold sober in the wee hours of Saturday morning, Benson would still have been guilty of poor judgment. There’s no reason to be out that late when your NFL career is on the line, especially when your bosses in Chicago already have an eye turned toward the Travis County Jail.

Running a red light after 2 a.m. is guaranteed to get you the flashing red ones in the rear-view mirror — and in Benson’s case, a pink slip in place of your paycheck.

Let’s put his actions in simpler terms: If a McDonald’s employee making $6.50 an hour gets arrested for boating while intoxicated, I would tell that guy to stay under the radar and avoid trouble if he hopes to continue working the grill in the foreseeable future.

So after my warning, Grill Guy goes out and gets arrested again five weeks later? It would be time to for him to call Burger King. Couldn’t trust that dude around a Happy Meal anymore.

The $17 million in guaranteed salary on Benson’s contract was good for a few million Value Meals, super sized and all, but his pea-brained judgment skills have cost him so much more.

And that may be a good thing.

He has been fired by the Bears, but just because names like Shaun Alexander and LaMont Jordan are now on the Windy City radar, it doesn’t mean Benson’s NFL career is over. He will play football again and could demand a seven-figure salary one day.

Now, let’s hope that round thing between his ear holes has accumulated enough wisdom of late to know that doing things his way didn’t work out the first time around.

Benson could either go down the same road that basically killed his idol Ricky Williams’ prime earning years or he can grow up and salvage his career.

More important, he has time now to reflect on the poor personal choices that have turned him from a potential franchise running back to a potential has-been at just 25 years of age.

Besides being African American and having the same first name, Benson and I have very little in common. But if he were my little brother, or if I were his agent, here are three things I would say to him:

Quit drinking.

Booze has played a role in your last two arrests. I know you’re hoping to sign with another NFL team, but while you’re waiting, why not drop the suds? That way, you could honestly tell interested league GMs that there will be no more failed sobriety tests and no more drunken-driving arrests.

And for you 25-year-old professionals out there who say he shouldn’t stop drinking because he’s young and living in Austin, I submit to you that this is not your average 25-year-old. His livelihood and bank account were directly affected by his use of alcohol, and the subsequent arrests have cost him untold millions.

Besides, if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell were looking for a new project just in case Pacman Jones has straightened himself out, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for Benson to reserve the capacity to blow a 0.00 upon demand.

Find a better support system. And if you decide against quitting the sauce, at least find someone to drive you around town when you’ve been drinking.

That’s right, a designated driver. Give that person a set of keys to your car. When you go out, he/she goes out. Make sure your buddy gets all the Cokes he/she wants, and when it’s time to go home, the DD will already have the keys to your ride, the keys you had made for this sort of occasion.

And if you don’t feel like being around this person every time you go out, do yourself a favor and hire a limo service. You can afford it, and it sure beats paying a bail bondsman.

Talk to the kids. You may not consider yourself a role model, but you are.

Go to any Longhorn game this fall, and you will still see plenty of No. 32 jerseys in the stands. They remember you. They’re still watching you.

You may be cleared of all charges in both of these cases, but you didn’t do yourself any favors over the last month. You should be more than excited about telling the people who look up to you about the consequences of their decisions. Some good can still come of this.

It’s a tough day to be Cedric Benson, but you haven’t heard the last of him. Good running backs are in short supply these days, and his services could eventually help an NFL team.

But first, he must help himself.