Benson Out 3-6 Weeks

Lake Forest - While Cedric Benson suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his first career start, the outcome could have been much worse. The running back was carted off the field after his right knee bent to a 90-degree angle.

Benson's right knee bent awkwardly underneath him when he cut back and was dropped for a 2-yard loss in the second quarter by the 49ers' 332-pound Isaac Sopoaga. It appeared he would not suit up for the Bears again anytime soon. However, the injury will not require surgery and head coach Lovie Smith expects Benson to be back in uniform this season.

"We definitely think he can be a part of the stretch run," Smith said. "We need all of our guns really for that and Cedric is a big part of what we're trying to do running the football. Our other guys will have to pick up the slack until he gets back."

Benson started against the 49ers in place of Thomas Jones, who sat out because of bruised ribs. He rushed for 50 yards on 12 carries before going down.

The rookie had been coming on before he got hurt. He had 58 carries for 237 yards, but averaged 5.7 yards over his last 29 attempts with three runs over 20 yards.

Part of the reason the Bears took Benson with the fourth pick in the draft was his durability. He carried the ball 1,112 times in four years at Texas and never failed to finish a game because of injury.

A torn MCL would have meant season ending surgery and the rehab would have likely carried into next season.

"It made me cringe as much as everybody else," Benson said of watching the replay of his knee bending awkwardly. "It didn't look too good, but I've been blessed with some flexibility."

The Bears depth in the backfield has been a strength all season.

With Benson and Jones banged up, Adrian Peterson rushed for 120 yards on 24-carries, one of which went for the only touchdown by the offense against San Francisco.

Even though Jones is expected back in the starting lineup this week against the Panthers, look for Peterson to get carries against Carolina's number one ranked rush defense.

"You can't ask more of a player than what he showed us today," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "Adrian was determined to get the yardage and he was in there working on every single play."

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