Benson's Dilemma

Lake Forest - Cedric Benson missed training camp and the entire preseason in an attempt to secure his future with $17 million in guarantee money. It appears the rookie running back is once again looking to the future when it comes to playing with a knee injury.

Benson has missed 6 games with a MCL sprain and it appears likely the season finale at Minnesota will be added to that total.

"I never wanted this to happen, but it did and I've got to deal with it and I've got to be smart about it cause this isn't the only season I'm having," Benson said. "This isn't a one season career."

There has been no talk of shutting Benson down for the season or surgery being required.

The Bears aren't in a position where they need Benson to play against the Vikings. The NFC North title and a first round bye are locked up. Thomas Jones is likely to stay in just long enough to get his 1,300 yards rushing and then it will become the Adrian Peterson show.

It would benefit Benson to suit up before the playoffs begin because if doesn't he will have went two months without playing in a game.

However, putting Benson on the field in a meaningless game when his knee hasn't fully recovered would be a risk to him and his teammates. The Bears still don't feel comfortable with Benson being able to handle a blitz pickup, especially with Rex Grossman at quarterback.

"Uh, that would be, yeah, yeah. It would be," said offensive coordinator Ron Turner when asked if Benson trying to protect Grossman would be a dangerous situation.

When asked to compare Benson's knee sprain to that of Thomas Jones, which he played through, Lovie Smith stayed away from the question.

"I don't make comparisons," Smith said. "I just know he is getting better right now, he was on the sidelines earlier, and right now he is carrying the football and we're making progress. He's fresh and seems like he is getting closer."

The disturbing part of the situation is the conflicting stories from Turner and Benson.

On Monday Turner was quoted saying, "I think he should be ready to go." Benson seemed surprised when asked about Turner's comment.

"We kind of came to the conclusion that we were gong to practice this week and see how we feel at the end of the week and make a decision on Friday or Saturday," Benson said.

While Benson isn't afraid of playing through the pain, the 23-year-old is understandably concerned about the long-term future of his career.

"Soreness is OK, you're sore mostly throughout the entire season," Benson said. "But when it's still kind of loose or kind of shaky or not as tight as the other one is then you kind of wonder what's the best thing to be doing."

There are two schools of thought on the subject. Is Benson only worried about his future, which already cost him a preseason, or is it a case of being smart and not rushing back from a knee injury that could turn serious with one hit?

Despite the great season Jones has put together, Benson will challenge for the starting job next season. A torn up knee would change those plans.

The play in which Benson was injured looked gruesome and it was surprising he came away with just a sprain. His durability at Texas appealed to the Bears and was a factor in taking him with the fourth overall pick. The organization made a major commitment to Benson and has a vested interest in him staying on the sideline if he's not 100 percent.

"Cedric is a valuable part of what we're going to do around here for many years and we'll never put him at risk," Smith said.

It might be a different story if a playoff spot were on the line and Jones couldn't play. Since it's not, the smart thing to do is protect a multimillion-dollar investment.


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