NFC North inside slant

News and views on Bears RB Cedric Benson, Lions WR Roy Williams and Vikings LB Erin Henderson.

Despite a lot of talk to the contrary, the Bears shouldn't consider cutting Cedric Benson until training camp and, if he's healthy, they shouldn't cut him regardless of the outcome of last Saturday night's arrest for boating while intoxicated and resisting arrest.

The Bears should treat Benson's arrest as what it is — a misdemeanor. Regular people usually don't lose their jobs over a misdemeanor, even if they're coming off a bad year. And in this case, there is considerable difference of opinion as to whether Benson resisted or was the object of overzealous police work. He has denied he was drunk and resisted arrest, and at least one witness is backing his story.

Keep in mind, Benson has not been arrested since he was drafted by the Bears in 2005. 

The fact he's had only one arrest in three years doesn't make him a model citizen. But as general manager Jerry Angelo said last weekend after the Bears drafted two players with arrest records in college, "This isn't an angelic game, as we all know, so we certainly aren't going to get all angels."

And Benson is not a repeat offender in the NFL, although he was arrested for trespassing in college five years ago when he attempted to recover a TV set that had been stolen from him.

The knee jerks who want Benson released immediately point out he averaged just 3.4 yards per carry last season, which is a putrid performance, especially for the fourth overall pick in the draft.

But no one on the Bears averaged more than 3.4 yards per carry last season. Adrian Peterson had the same average as Benson, Garrett Wolfe managed 2.7 yards per attempt and Devin Hester netted minus-10 yards on seven attempts behind an offensive line that struggled.

Second-round pick Matt Forte may be capable of replacing Benson as the Bears' featured ballcarrier, but coach Lovie Smith and Angelo have always insisted the team that "gets off the bus running" needs two starting-caliber runners.

It's debatable whether Benson qualified last season as "starting caliber," and he's coming off a fractured left ankle that required surgery, screws and a plate to fix. But who didn't believe Benson was a serviceable NFL running back during the final seven regular-season games of the 2006 Super Bowl season, when he averaged 4.9 yards per attempt while splitting carries with Thomas Jones?

If Benson can't help the Bears win, get rid of him and get someone who can. But let's wait for all the facts, all sides of the story and for the legal system to run its course before crucifying a player just because he hasn't lived up to expectations on the field.

If the Bears canned every player and coach who didn't get the job done last season, they could print their roster on a matchbook cover.

Lions: Williams thought he'd be traded

Wide receiver Roy Williams thought the Lions were going to trade him earlier this offseason, and even after coach Rod Marinelli assured him he wasn't going anywhere, he still wasn't 100 percent certain he was staying.

"From all the rumors, I thought I was out of here," Williams said. "Just from listening to everything. But then I listened to Coach saying I wasn't going nowhere, so that reassured me that I wasn't going anywhere."

Williams said Marinelli called him once in March.

Asked if that was all he needed to hear or if he had any doubts after that, Williams said: "I mean, I don't think it was zero-percent chance I wasn't going anywhere. I think if somebody would have come with something that could have benefited the Lions, I think I would have been out of here."

Dallas, Philadelphia and Washington reportedly were interested in Williams, though president Matt Millen said he never received any serious offers.

Williams might be able to choose his team after his contract expires at the end of the 2008 season. But he said he thought the Lions would designate him their franchise player to keep him off the free-agent market.

"I don't think I'm gone next year, either," Williams said. "I think they're going to slap me."

Williams said the Lions had not talked to him about a contract extension, but that would not be a motivating factor this season.

"I don't play for money, man," Williams said. "I play for wins. The money is there. It's what this league is based on or whatever, but I don't play for money. I play for wins. Growing up, I didn't have money, so that's not a big issue to me. I've always been a winner all my life. That's all I care about."

Vikings: Hey, brother

Erin Henderson swears he wasn't mad for long after he wasn't selected in last month's draft. The Maryland linebacker had a fourth-round grade on him but concerns about knee problems caused him to slip through all seven rounds.

"About 10 or 15 minutes," Henderson said of how long he was upset.

Part of the reason was because Henderson quickly realized he was in control of where he would begin his NFL career and the decision wasn't all that difficult. Henderson signed with the Vikings, who employ Henderson's older brother, E.J., as their starting middle linebacker.

"I thought about it: ‘I'm going to Minnesota to play with big bro.' What do I have to be upset about?"     

While both brothers played college football at Maryland, the two have never been on the same team because Erin is six years younger than E.J.

E.J. already was helping Erin early this month before the latter reported for a three-day rookie minicamp with the Vikings.

"I went over most of the playbook with my brother last night," Erin said. "How many guys can say they had the opportunity to do that? This definitely has its plusses and minuses, but I can deal with the minuses with a plus like that."

Making the roster isn't going to be easy for Erin. He was used at middle and outside linebacker in the rookie camp and will need to prove his ability to contribute on special teams.

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