Cutting Benson Now is the Only Thing to Do

The Chicago Bears selected Cedric Benson with the No. 4 pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, but $17 million in guaranteed money has returned little more than a long holdout before his rookie season, a lengthy injury history, and a lengthening rap sheet. The time has come to send this Longhorn out to pasture.

It would be one thing if he was LaDainian Tomlinson, leading the league in rushing the last two seasons and averaging 4.5 yards per carry over the course of his certain Hall-of-Fame career.

It's quite another when he hasn't topped the pedestrian 674 yards on the ground he gained this past year, plodding along at a miserable 3.4 yards per attempt before he was mercifully moved to the injured reserve list because of a fractured ankle suffered in Week 12.

It would be one thing if he was Adrian Peterson – the superstar from Oklahoma, not the special-teamer from Georgia Southern – and took the NFL by storm as a rookie, working his way into the offense behind Chester Taylor before proving that he might be the next Eric Dickerson.

It's quite another when he has just one more 100-yard rushing performance in a Bears uniform (2) than fullback Roland Harper and even one less than quarterback Bobby Douglass, plus the team had to trade away the popular Thomas Jones last offseason in order to clear the way for him at the top of the depth chart.

And when you throw in two alcohol-related arrests in little more than a month, there's just no way to justify keeping Cedric Benson on the roster any longer.


RB Cedric Benson
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Benson was arrested in the wee hours of Saturday morning in downtown Austin, when he blew through a red light and subsequently failed a field sobriety test after being pulled over by police. The former Texas Longhorn, who is still considered a god among men by many in the Lone Star State, was curiously smiling from ear to ear in his mugshot.

Bears general manager Jerry Angelo, however, did not consider this a laughing matter.

"Disappointment is too much an often-used word when we're talking about Cedric," Angelo said Saturday from the Bears Expo, a giving-back-to-the-fans event at Soldier Field that was overshadowed by Benson's continued problems. "I am very surprised he put himself in this situation."

Angelo was surprised because Benson had another run-in with the long arm of the law just a few weeks ago – also in Austin – on Lake Travis, when he was busted for boating while intoxicated and resisting arrest. He had to be pepper-sprayed because he allegedly failed to cooperate, although more than one eyewitness believes the police may have used excessive force to subdue him.

Angelo's patience with Benson was already wearing thin, but now it just may have worn out.

"Hard to believe," Angelo said in an exasperated tone. "We are certainly going to take this very seriously. I'm not going to tell you we're not extremely disappointed and frustrated with this. Anybody would be in this situation. But we will get together as a group [and] make sure we hear all sides before we do anything."

This situation is eerily similar to the last days of the Tank Johnson era in Chicago, as the troubled defensive tackle was pulled over for speeding in suburban Phoenix and taken in for suspicion of DUI shortly after spending 60 days behind bars on weapons charges. The Bears released Johnson five days later even though his blood-alcohol level ultimately proved to be below the legal limit and the charges were dropped. If Angelo has indeed set a precedent, Benson could be pink-slipped in a hurry.

The Monsters of the Midway might have to think twice if the former No. 4-overall pick was a productive running back, but the fact that he's also been a colossal disaster on the gridiron makes this decision a no-brainer.


RB Matt Forte
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Get rid of him – now.

Even though he was 10 pounds lighter and appeared to be moving quite well during the team's mandatory three-day minicamp, showing no ill effects from last season's ankle injury. Even though the heir apparent, second-round pick Matt Forte, is yet to put on a pair of shoulder pads for the Bears and did most his damage in the collegiate ranks against inferior Conference-USA competition. Even though the foul stench of Rashaan Salaam and Curtis Enis, a pair of first-round flops at the tailback position, still lingers around the Windy City to this day.

Getting behind the wheel of a car after having a few adult beverages, reprehensible as it may be, is not an uncommon occurrence in this country. That being said, getting behind the wheel of a car after having a few adult beverages a month or so after another booze-induced arrest, and a short time after paying a $510 fine for speeding through a construction zone, and with all the money in the world to hire a fleet of limousines, and hearing the praise being thrown Forte's way thus far, and knowing full well that your livelihood hangs in the balance is not just irresponsible. It is flat-out stupid.

In Star Wars, it was Obi-Wan Kenobi who gave us the following words of wisdom: "Who's the greater fool? The fool, or the fool who follows him?" Benson is clearly a fool. But the Bears will be even greater fools if they continue to follow him straight into pigskin oblivion.

The knee-jerk reaction around town to Benson's episode on Lake Travis was to cut him right away. But once the layers of the onion started to peel away and it looked like he was perhaps profiled and harassed by the authorities, that hard stance softened to some degree. Then he showed up to Halas Hall looking fast and focused – maybe he was finally taking this football stuff seriously after all.

But right now, any goodwill generated recently just came crashing to the turf faster than Benson on a toss sweep. No matter the salary-cap ramifications, no matter the offensive struggles, and no matter the legal outcome down in Austin, the organization simply has to deep-six him immediately and move on with Forte in the backfield.

The Bears may not become more powerful than they could possibly imagine, but at least they won't be turned to the dark side.

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.


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