Edgar Bennett was a dependable running back for the Packers during his five-year stint in the Green Bay backfield. Now the Packers are depending on him to fill the shoes of Sylvester Croom as the team's running backs coach.
Bennett was an unofficial apprentice to Croom, who is leaving his Packers post to become head coach at Mississippi State. The student will become the teacher at least temporarily as Bennett serves as interim running backs coach.
Bennett is ready. Currently in his third season back with the team as the Packers' director of player development/programs, Bennett has served double duty this year. After approaching Croom to be his coaching mentor, Bennett has attended every practice and attended every running backs meeting since last season.
"Learning from a guy like Sly, it's priceless," Bennett said.
Bennett already has a crucial qualification for the job. He has the respect of the players he'll be coaching.
"The biggest thing is he's got our respect," running back Tony Fisher said, according to the Associated Press. "If he didn't have our respect, then maybe it'd be hard. But EB's got our respect.
"We know the type of coach he's going to be. He's going to demand the best out of all of us, the same way Sly does. He's picked up a lot of stuff from Sly," Fisher said. "Right now EB's got the job, or part of the job, and we know what to expect out of him and he knows what to expect out of us.
The development is an exciting one for Bennett in his second football career. The 34-year-old Florida native was drafted by Green Bay in the fourth-round of the 1992 draft. He ended the team's 1,000-yard rusher drought by becoming the first Packer to reach the mark since Terdell Middleton in 1978. Bennett went on to lead the team in rushing for three consecutive seasons, concluding with the Super Bowl XXXI championship campaign. His single-season mark for most receptions by a running back (78 in 1994) still stands.
After suffering a torn Achilles' tendon in the Packers' first preseason game following Super Bowl XXXI, Bennett had to sit out the 1997 season. He went to Chicago as a free agent in 1998, leading the Bears in rushing that season with 611 yards. After one more season in Chicago, Bennett retired.
He couldn't stay away from the game for long. Bennett returned to the Packers in April 2001 as director of player programs. He became the director of player development last season, helping players acclimate to the NFL and Green Bay and to become involved in community service. An example of the team's outreach into the Green Bay community was an appearance this week at a local church where a large group of players sang Christmas carols, distributed gifts and talked with area children who are being treated for cancer at the city's St. Vincent's Hospital.