Bennett Makes No Waves Through Trying Times

If Michael Bennett returns to the Vikings, it could create some interesting options on how to use the speed back. But his status with the team is very much up in the air, as he, his teammates and the new head coach aren't giving any strong indication that he will be re-signed.

After all the frustration about not knowing if he'd start or even play in games in 2005, Michael Bennett might still be holding out hope for a return to the Vikings in 2006.

Bennett and Moe Williams are unrestricted free agents in the Vikings offensive backfield. Williams sounded like a retiring man when Viking Update talked with him before he was placed on injured reserve and before he was charged with misdemeanor offenses in connection with the Vikings' October Love Boat embarrassment.

Bennett, on the other hand, despite a season filled with frustration by not knowing what his role would be from game to game, had a difficult last week. He called the experience of going into his first round of free agency "emotional" prior to and following the Vikings' season finale against the Chicago Bears.

It was at that finale that Bennett had one of his best games of the season, rushing fro 82 yards with a long of 61 yards. It provided him with his second-most yards of the season, his longest run of the season and his highest average (13.7 yards) per rush.

Still, the culmination of the season had to wear on Bennett.

"Mike definitely has been (frustrated)," fellow running back Ciatrick Fason said prior to the season finale. "They said this offseason was his best offseason where he worked out, and he got himself prepared. Then he got the neck injury in the preseason and that put him behind. That gave Mewelde (Moore) the chance to step up. I think it's been very frustrating. It's his contract year and he didn't get to play as much time as he wanted to. I know he was ready to, because every time he got the chance to show what he could do he always ran for 100 yards or got close to it."

Bennett had one 100-yard game and ended the season with 473 yards on 126 rushes, eight 100-yard games shy of his career year in 2002, when he was the unquestioned feature back and rushed for 1,296 yards.

Through it all, Bennett has remained professional and hopeful about his future in Minnesota.

"I don't really know what's going on or what's going to happen, but hopefully they feel I'm a good or at least key part of this organization and they bring me back. But if not, I have to move on," he said.

The fact that the Vikings have a new head coach who was the offensive coordinator at Wisconsin during Bennett's freshman year might play into the Vikings' decision, but while Bennett praised Childress prior to his hiring, Childress wasn't about to give any insight into the running back situation of the future.

"Brad's a good guy. He knows offense and knows defense," Bennett said when asked about Childress the day after Mike Tice had been fired. "If he's one of the candidates, then I think he's a great fit. He's a great family guy. You hate to say he's this kind of this or that mold, but a mold like a Tony Dungy – just a great all-around guy. Players really have a lot of respect for him."

Childress has received strong reviews from Vikings ownership and his former Eagles players, but his plans at running back have been kept as secret as a gimmick play saved for the end of a game.

But whether Bennett is back in purple or another color next season, he didn't make any waves throughout a trying 2005 campaign.

"Ever since I got here, he's always been a person that is going to be about the team that he's playing with now," Fason said. "He hasn't given anybody a heads-up on what he's going to do. He's just waiting out his options right now."



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