Although Benson said that Williams ‘had been his football idol' and admitted that they did share a physical resemblance before Benson cut his hair prior to the draft, the new Bears RB felt that their similarities ended there. Clearly, Benson wished to be judged on his own character traits instead of those of the older and decidedly erratic Williams. Evidently Gabriel agreed.
"Give the guy a break and at least let him come in here and see what he can do before you get all over him," Gabriel said when meeting with several reporters in the media room.
Gabriel went on to praise Benson's production on the field and mention that he should fit perfectly into the Bears newly revamped run oriented offense.
"We don't just go out and bring anybody into our team," Gabriel said. "Our staff has had repeated meetings with Cedric and we are more than satisfied that he will be a positive addition both in and out of the locker room. In fact, (wide receiver coach) Darryl Drake was an assistant coach at Texas for three years and he knows Benson well. Heck, he practically lived with him. Darryl couldn't be happier that Cedric is joining our team."
Gabriel emphasized that the addition of Benson would help bring a balanced offensive attack and would provide good competition for position with current starter Thomas Jones.
"It takes a lot of patience to find exactly the right type of player who will have the earliest possible impact on our system," Gabriel said. "And in my mind, in Lovie's mind and in Jerry's mind, Cedric is that player. This was a strong draft for RBs. We looked at a lot of guys at the combine, at their schools, and here at Halas Hall. Over and over again, Cedric ended up at the top of our list."
When asked about Benson's strengths, Gabriel offered an immediate answer, "instincts for the game".
"By that I mean that he is the whole package. Look at some game film. You'll see incredible speed and endurance. One set we have on him shows Cedric with 160 yards in the first half alone. Then he was out there again being an impact player during the entire second half. That's the kind of guy we want on the Bears."
Gabriel also mentioned the fact that Benson has remained injury free throughout his high school and college career.
"Look at him," Gabriel said. "He's carried for well over 5,000 yards and has never been out with an injury. He's had 4 -1,000 plus yard seasons as well as 40 touchdowns in the past two years. He's strong, He's healthy. As you know, durability was a problem here last year. We are looking for strong players who will be part of our team on a consistent, week to week basis."
When asked about Benson's dreadlocks, Gabriel offered the athlete's altered appearance as proof that he was ready to move into adulthood and assume the responsibilities required the National Football League.
"In some ways, I view Cedric's recent haircut as being a tangible sign that he is ready to move on. It was his idea and in every way, it was a positive statement. I think that Cedric wants to be viewed on his own terms and as his own man, not constantly compared to some other player he respected in terms of athletic talent, but hardly knew personally."
Benson's legal problems were also a hot topic. He had been charged with a misdemeanor possession of marijuana charge in 2002, but the case was dropped due to a lack of evidence. He was also arrested on misdemeanor criminal trespassing for kicking in the door of an apartment shared by a man Austin police suspected in the burglary of Benson's apartment in 2003.
Last August, Benson received an eight-day sentence as well as a $1,000 fine and $600 restitution. Ultimately, he served just two days in jail.
Gabriel did acknowledge that Benson could have dealt with the theft of a $15,000 plasma television better.
"He made a mistake. He freely admits he made a mistake," Gabriel said. "He overreacted to the situation. He got a lead as to where it was. What he should have done was call the police. He didn't do it. He reacted like an immature 20-year-old would do in the same situation."