Bear Report Rant

Any good running back knows when the hole closes in front of him, the best alternative is to get back to the line of scrimmage and cut your losses.

It's time for Cedric Benson to show he's a good running back. The time is overdue for his holdout to end.

The Bears' first-round pick is one of only two players in the entire draft still unsigned for this year, and the only one without extenuating circumstances surrounding his playing status.

It's one thing to seek a good and just contract. When you're the last man standing, though, you look like quite the fool if the team ultimately holds all the cards. And right now there is no doubt the Bears hold all those cards.

Benson has no alternatives right now. The Bears' take-it-leave-it offer will soon become smaller based on his diminishing availability to them in this first season. He can't play in another league, unless he likes the Canadian Football League and about a $20 an hour wage. He can wait until next year and re-enter the draft if he wants to sacrifice a year's worth of wages, an untold amount of bonus money and risk dropping down far beyond the fourth pick in next year's draft. No one can be that silly. Even Curtis Enis got into camp eventually and accepted what proved to be a disastrous three-year contract.

Benson's agent, Eugene Parker, is simply misguided if he thinks the Bears' bargaining position has somehow been weakened now because of the broken ankle suffered by his other client, quarterback Rex Grossman. Perhaps he thinks the Bears are over a barrel now that they have to use Chad Hutchinson at quarterback and have only Thomas Jones as a proven ball carrier.

This idea is wrong in many ways. Jones has gained 90 yards on 21 preseason carries and looks no less effective -- in fact more effective in some ways -- than last year in an offense that was supposedly more suited to his style. He gained 948 rushing yards and accounted for 36 percent of the team's offensive yards then, the second-highest total by any player in the league. And he did that with a banged-up offensive line and shuttling quarterbacks. Adrian Peterson is proving a capable backup in this system. He has 90 rushing yards, as well.

Besides that, the Bears are a team that is going to go only as far as their defense carries them this year anyway. Ron Turner's new offense is going to struggle somewhat initially regardless of whether it's Jones or Benson carrying the ball mainly because new offensive systems usually do this in the NFL. It takes repetitions in games to get everyone in sync. The Bears can afford to be patient in their talks with Benson because not much is expected of them, anyway.

Certainly the agent has something at stake here. No agent wants to appear soft to their client. With Drew Rosenhaus seemingly getting first dibs at top new players these days over every agent, and also taking clients away from veteran players -- he got Tommie Harris from Parker prior to this season -- it wouldn't be surprising if Parker sees this as a stand he needs to make for himself as well as his client.

But it's not an all or nothing situation. The Bears are apparently willing to give Benson money about halfway between the $18.5 million bonus third pick Braylon Edwards got and the $13.1 million bonus fifth pick Cadillac Williams received. It should be a matter of dotting the 'I's.'

It's ironic and amazing that it's come this far. The irony rests in the fact the Bears' last three running backs drafted in the first round have held out for a lengthy period of time.

Benson's holdout on Saturday becomes the longest holdout by a draft pick in team history.

He's already certainly provoked the ire of fans.

When Curtis Enis came into camp after a 27-day holdout and appeared in a game for the first time, Soldier Field fans booed him mercilessly. They kept booing him. Chicago has grown into a white-collar town but its roots are still blue collar, so blatant greediness is rarely accepted here.

The animosity is only going to build with each passing day of the holdout, and it isn't limited to fans.

When Benson reports, he'll also have to deal with veteran teammates who don't take kindly to players staying out when they're already going to get more bonus money for doing nothing than most veterans have received.

It calls to mind the Enis holdout. When he finally reported to camp, Dave Wannstedt pulled all the players around in the old ""bull ring.'' It was one-on-one, full pads, Enis with Rico McDonald, one of the scariest individuals the Bears of that era had. The end result wasn't pretty, and the players enjoyed it immensely.

A few players last week already have voiced support for Jones' bid to retain a starting spot, chiefly because he's here and they can see him working. Defensive end Adewale Ogunleye was one of them.

Right now he's our best running back," Ogunleye said about Jones. "Until somebody else proves me different, I think he's the best guy for the job right now."

As for Benson, Ogunleye added, "He's a rookie. You never really can depend on a rookie. For people to really say that (the rookie must start), that's saying that your organization is really not worth too much. What he can do is probably help out."

What Benson has to do now is starting helping out himself and his team by getting ""back to the line of scrimmage,'' so to speak in contract talks, and signing a deal.

It's not too late to smooth over some of the damage already done. A few big runs would do it. But you can't run when you're not in uniform.


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