Benson Slow to Return from Injury

Remember that predraft speculation about the Vikings wanting a bigger back like Texas' Cedric Benson? Afterwards, we learned Benson wasn't a viable option for the Vikings, and now the Chicago Bears running back may or may not be playing against the Vikings on Sunday in an injury-riddled season.

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."

Pro Bowl WR Muhsin Muhammad dropped three Rex Grossman passes last week, but the young quarterback isn't about to get in the veteran's face about it.

"It's definitely more supportive," Grossman said. "He's a Pro Bowl receiver. He led the league in touchdown catches and yards last season. He's been there, done that. He makes big catches in big games and I know he is going to come through when it counts. He'll pick his game up. He talked to me a little bit after the game and apologized and I just said, `Don't worry about it, you're a great receiver.' I know he's going to make the play. I've got to trust him that he's going to make the play and I do and I know he will."

BY THE NUMBERS: Thomas Jones needs 27 yards to become the only player in franchise history other than Walter Payton to rush for 1,300 yards. Payton did it nine times. The Bears need to hold the Vikings to 18 points or less to establish a franchise record for fewest points allowed, breaking the record of 187 set by the 1986 team. The 1985 Super Bowl Bears allowed 198 points.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's going to be fun to go back and play there. Obviously, I am going to remember what happened, but I think everything will kind of come full circle. I'll think about it a little bit, but mostly I will be thinking about what I am supposed to do. I'm glad we're playing there and I am glad I get a chance to go back to the scene of the disaster." - Bears QB Rex Grossman, on his return to the Metrodome, where he suffered a ruptured ACL in his right knee 15 months ago.

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