Notebook: Benson Unlikely to Go Again

Lake Forest - Sunday will be seven weeks since Cedric Benson suffered a sprained right knee that was expected to keep him out 2-6 weeks, but the rookie still isn't confident he can play, even though he practiced on Wednesday inside the Walter Payton Center.

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

On Monday, when he was asked about Benson, Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner said, "I think he should be ready to go. He looked better last week in practice, and the word I got last week was that he should be fine, he should be ready this week."

But Benson said he still feels some looseness and shakiness in the knee, and he isn't sure what the best course of action is. He said he still has soreness after practice and probably will the rest of the season.

"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. "This is my first MCL (medical collateral ligament), and it's my first major injury. I don't know how much time before (I'm ready). Everybody is different, everybody heals at different times, so I can't say when."

Since the Bears might not play many of their starters more than a half against the Vikings, a lot of young players could be slated for extensive action. But Adrian Peterson may be the only running back cleared to play after starter Thomas Jones gets the 27 yards he needs to become the only Bear besides Walter Payton to rush for 1,300 yards in a season.

"Being a rookie, I'm sure he's never been in this situation," Bears coach Lovie Smith said of Benson. "We're going to put our players on the field when they have been cleared and there is the least risk of injury. This past week we were playing for the division crown, and we had some players who were close to being able to go, and we probably could have played a few of them. But we'll always err on the side of caution. 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."

Keeping it Quite
Smith, who keeps information locked away for as long as he can, said he might reveal playing time later in the week regarding Sunday's meaningless season finale against the Vikings.

"We are practicing our guys with the game in mind," Smith said. "Just like we do each week. Trying to get the best guys we have on our squad ready to play, not only for this week but for upcoming weeks. As far as how much time guys will get, we are going to let that go," he said. "We haven't made decisions on that. If a guy is healthy, we plan on playing him."

Health Beat
FB Bryan Johnson is out with a foot injury. MLB Brian Urlacher is probable after missing Wednesday's practice with "illness." CB Jerry Azumah (hip), RB Cedric Benson (knee), S Mike Green (shoulder), S Mike Brown (calf), WLB Hunter Hillenmeyer (thumb), C Olin Kreutz (ankle), DT Ian Scott (hamstring) and CB Charles Tillman (shoulder) are all questionable. All are expected to be able to play by Sunday but might not because of the unimportance of the game.

RG Terrence Metcalf was not on the injury report for the first time in four weeks and should reclaim his starting job on the right side after missing three straight games.

LG Ruben Brown was not listed on the injury report but was rested and did not practice. The same can be said for DT Tommie Harris.


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