Just a few hours long ago, I had all kinds of great things to write about Friday's morning practice. Brad Maynard bombing punts into a stiff wind. J.D. Runnels displaying pillow-soft hands catching swing passes out of the backfield. Olin Kreutz looking as fast as ever during offensive linemen drills. Ricky Manning Jr. running stride for stride with Bernard Berrian in coverage on a fly route. Mark Philmore ending the early session with a beauty of a touchdown catch on a skinny post from Kyle Orton.
Even the evening practice was looking good for the first hour or so. A gorgeous tipped pass and interception return for Jamar Williams. Alfonso Boone picking up and returning a squib kick to the delight of everyone in attendance. Mark Bradley scorching Devin Hester on an out-and-up along the left sideline. More crisp passing from Rex Grossman. Muhsin Muhammad showing that he still has plenty of #1 gas left in the tank.
And then it happened.
Cedric Benson caught a routine dump pass from Grossman, and as he was turning up field to find more running room, he was double-popped by Brian Urlacher and Mike Brown. Benson immediately grabbed his left wrist in obvious pain before falling to the turf. He stayed there for several minutes as a nervous crowd of blue and white jerseys, along with plenty of coaches and training staff, gathered around the second-year running back. When the dust finally cleared, Benson had a heavy wrap around his left shoulder and was carted off the field on a John Deere six-wheeler.
Although the entire defensive unit has leisurely danced around the topic for a week, it's pretty obvious to the media at practice every day that Benson has been getting hit twice as hard as the rest of the offense. Whether they are just breaking him in or sending some sort of message about his holdout from a year ago, it's happening. Maybe this is their way of showing their support for Thomas Jones. Regardless of the reason, the extra-curricular activity exhibited toward last year's top draft pick had a direct effect on him getting hurt.
I'm going to stop being a sports writer for a minute and just tell you what I saw. I was right on the sideline when the play happened and had an excellent view as everything unfolded. So far in camp, once a rusher or receiver makes his way into the secondary with the ball after a carry or a catch, the defense essentially stops hitting. They casually try to strip the ball because they make a point to practice forcing turnovers, but the offensive player will start to slow down and end the play after a few steps in the secondary.
This is exactly what Benson did. He caught a dump pass from Grossman on a check-down, made a few cuts toward daylight, and was just starting to ease his step before he was sandwiched by Urlacher and Brown. I'm confident he wasn't expecting the hit, and it's my stance that both blows were completely unnecessary. If it was Adrian Peterson taking that rep, no way he takes that hit. This is perfectly in line with the treatment Benson has been receiving for over a week now.
I've seen enough separated shoulders over the years to recognize one when I see one. A player will secure the hand on the side that got hurt to hold his arm in place. Benson did just that after the hit, grabbing his left hand immediately. It is excruciatingly painful when that shoulder slides around.
Another bad sign is the fact that Benson had his shoulder wrapped over his jersey and pads. This tells me that he was in too much agony to remove his gear and have the injury wrapped properly. Logic says that the trainers would want to get ice on it right away to keep the swelling down, but apparently, Benson removing his jersey and shoulder pads was not an option.
And what did the assailants, the two multiple Pro Bowlers, the two most well-known faces of this sensational defense have to say for themselves?
When the press asked Brown what happened as he walked across the field to sign autographs, his only response was, "You're asking the wrong cat."
Urlacher took no responsibility for his actions whatsoever. "I don't remember," he said. "I don't know what happened. I turned around, and he was on the ground. I went and got back to the huddle."
"I don't even know if I was the one that hit him," he continued. "I'm not here to really comment about injuries out here. I'm sure it will be on the injury report. You can check that out."
Lovie Smith described the injury as a "freak accident." He gave no diagnosis, only saying that Benson would have x-rays right away, and he would have those results on Saturday. According to him, "Those sort of things happen."
I specifically asked him if the hit was unnecessary because, in my opinion, it occurred a little late. "Our guys don't hit unnecessarily out here," he announced to everyone. "You're going to get hit periodically. There was nothing cheap about it."
There may have been nothing cheap about the hit, at least according to the man in charge, but if Benson is sidelined for a significant period of time and Jones is slow to recover from his curious hamstring pull, the Bears backfield may be looking awfully cheap for a while.
Maybe it's time to give Adrian Peterson an orange no-contact jersey for the remainder of training camp.
Ready for some more bad news, Bears fans? Berrian, the Baron of Bourbonnais so far in the eyes of many experts, strained his right hip flexor in the evening session and was wearing a heavy wrap around his thigh. Earlier in the day, Airese Currie and Terrence Metcalf had arthroscopic knee surgery, so both will be out indefinitely.
So to recap, the starting tailback took a questionable shot and appears to have a significant shoulder injury, meaning the top two runners on the depth chart are both unavailable for now. A potential breakout star on a questionable receiving corps may be out for a little while, and another will certainly be lost for quite some time. A dependable veteran backup offensive lineman will also be missing from a unit that is already battling age and depth issues.
They say tomorrow is another day, and for the Bears right now, tomorrow can not come fast enough.