Benson Will Be Brought Along Slowly

Lake Forest - The Bears are hoping that Cedric Benson will be as tough for opponents to bring down, as he was to sign. The fourth overall pick inked his five-year deal on Monday.

Despite investing $17 million in guaranteed money, the Bears have no plans to rush Benson onto the field to justify his contract.

Benson didn't practice and will not play in the team's preseason finale on Thursday against the Cleveland Browns. There is also uncertainty about whether or not he'll be ready for the Sept. 11 season opener at Washington.

"We're going to get him on the field as soon as we can," said head coach Lovie Smith. "We don't have a timetable for when. We're just going to start from scratch right now with him. Just like as he would (have) initially coming to training camp."

The Bears have the luxury of showing patience with Benson because the running game has been able to succeed in his absence. Thomas Jones has only improved his perception with the organization in the preseason. He's averaged 5.3 yards on 35 carries.

Adrian Peterson has three touchdowns and has averaged 4.6 yards per carry. He will remain as the No. 2 back for the time being.

That leaves Benson to work his way up the depth chart. The lack of preseason work and missing an entire training camp has forced Benson to alter his goals for his rookie season.

"I'm starting from the bottom now as opposed to where (I would be) if I would have came in the first day of camp I would have had a better jump on things and now I've got to catch up to the pace of everyone else," Benson said. "But I don't think that will be difficult at all. I think it will be more fun than difficult."

What took the two sides 36 days to come to an agreement remains a mystery. The Bears didn't increase their offer, but an impromptu meeting between Benson, his advisor Brian Peters and GM Jerry Angelo last Thursday seemed to clear the air.

"We hadn't talked in approximately 30 some days, any communication with Cedric, and there were some things he wanted to voice to me personally that I took to heart," Angelo said. "I felt there were some things that needed to be said to him, not in terms of negotiations, we weren't negotiating, just in terms of where we were at, and our philosophy."

While Angelo said that he respects Benson's agent, Eugene Parker, he did admit over the course of negotiations their relationship was strained. As is the case in any fair negotiation, both sides came away feeling that they left something on the table.

"It really is a case of the team walks away not feeling good about certain things and the agent walks away not feeling good about certain things and that really is where we found our common ground in our disagreements," Angelo said.

The Bears are anxious to see if Benson can duplicate his college production in the NFL. In four years at Texas, he carried the ball 1,112 times for 5,540 yards and 64 touchdowns. He also caught 69 passes for 621 yards and three scores.

"We're just excited to get another part of another piece of our team really back with us," Smith said. "He was a big part of it as we started, we were looking for him to be a big part of it so we're just excited to get him back in the fold."

If it's a question of Benson being physically ready to play, he believes his conditioning regiment has prepared him for the challenge ahead.

"I'm ready. We did a conditioning test today and I blew it out the charts," Benson said. "I haven't been sitting on my butt this entire time. I've been readying in preparation of coming down here. I knew the time would come."

When asked to reflect back on the experience, Benson tried to show perspective about the situation.

"I wouldn't say it wasn't worth the wait," Benson said. "There's pros and cons in the whole situation. Ultimately, I wondered if I could have gone in and done my own negotiation and had it come out the way I wanted. But I have no idea on how things work and stuff like that. But I am happy to be here and I am happy with the things I saw today and the things I reviewed. I've got to say I am. I am satisfied."

The question remains how long the Bears will have to wait before they can say the same about their investment.


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