So many so wrong on Benson

By Paul Daugherty
Updated: October 26, 2009

CINCINNATI — You wonder how it all went nasty in Chicago.

Even now, years later, after the story has been told a thousand times. How could so many people be so wrong about Cedric Benson? A better question: How could Benson allow it?

He’s at the podium after Sunday’s game. He’s wearing what looks to be an argyle sweater. He speaks softly and clearly, candidly without rancor. This isn’t a guy who needs to flap his wings. He’s too grounded.

“Revenge was not how I wanted to respond to the day,” Benson said.

And so he didn’t. At least not in the look-at-me, muscle-flexing fashion all too typical in the NFL. Benson just kept taking the ball and running. 37 tries, 189 yards against the team that gave up on him.

“I knew I was going to be faced with getting overly emotional,” he admitted.

He didn’t do that, either. Near the end of Cincinnati’s comical, 45-10 bludgeoning of the Bears, Benson did take several steps toward the visitors bench after a couple carries. He said some things, to no one in particular. Afterward, he sounded almost apologetic about it.

“I tried hard the entire game to not, I wouldn’t call it taunting, not to get too involved emotionally,” Benson said. “A small part of me couldn’t resist.”

The story still unspools for the Bengals. Benson is right in the center of it, Player A when the topic turns to all the second-chancers that have helped the team build an identity.

Cincinnati is winning with several yard sale players. Benson was so down and out of football, he barely qualifies for that category. He was the Weber grill in the weeds by the garage, that you wanted 10 bucks for at 10 in the morning. By 5, you were giving it away.

A man gets picked fourth overall in the draft, he has loved football his whole life, because talent alone doesn’t make him that good. He leaves football too soon, one of two things can happen. He can be terminally angry and give up on himself. Or he can be humbled and save his career. You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.

Benson leads the league in rushing yards.

We’ve said this before. We started saying it almost since Benson arrived on a train-wreck team five games into last season: This was a guy the Bears couldn’t wait to get rid of?

He had 50 yards in his first five carries Sunday. Benson has been hard to tackle all year, mainly because his feet have never seemed to hit the ground and he has been a regular Einstein reading his blocks.

Sunday, he played with the emotion of a child abandoned by his family. Even as he tried to contain himself.

“I had a wonderful day,” was the extent of Benson’s chest-puffing.

Benson even talked about his last two games as a Bear. “I was getting the feel of the game, of myself as a running back in the NFL,” he said. Then he got hurt, “but I never forgot what I learned.” Sunday’s game was as unremarkable as a 35-point laugher can be.

“We tackled, we covered, we ran, we caught,” safety Chris Crocker explained.

Also, the offensive line committed no penalties until the lead was 31-3, and Carson Palmer could have thrown a watermelon through a knitting needle. Palmer had promised a day such as this, when potential met reality, unencumbered with holding calls. He delivered, emphatically.

It’s hard to tell what comes from 45-10. Maybe the best that can be said is that it opened eyes to what is possible. One guy already knew what was possible. The one who almost lost it all.

“We’ve all made mistakes,” Benson said. I asked him what his experience in Cincinnati should say about the perils of making assumptions. “We all as human beings know better than” to judge. “Give the next person the opportunity to get through his troubles.”

As Carson Palmer noted, “Ced came with an open mind, the organization kept an open mind.”

It’s tough right now to say who got the better of that deal. Maybe everyone.