The Rise And Fall…And Rise And Fall Of Cedric Benson

In 2005, the Bears held the 4th pick in the NFL Draft. Coming off of a horrific 2004 season, the Bears had many needs to address. At the running back position, most experts, and Bears fans alike, thought they had a really solid runner in Thomas Jones. Jones turned his flailing career around when he came to the Bears in 2004, rushing for 948 yards and seven touchdowns. The Bears seemed to have that position settled for quite a few years with a nice veteran.

With that 4th pick in the draft, there was no chance that the Bears would draft a running back, right? Wrong. The Bears selected Texas Longhorn running back Cedric Benson. A selection that was shocking, even to Jones. Benson had a great career at the University of Texas at Austin, rushing for 5,540 yards and was the winner of the Doak Walker Award which is given to the nation’s top running back. Benson was compared to another former Texas Longhorn, Ricky Williams. Both players had similar running styles and both were subjects to off-field issues with the law.

Despite his off the field problems, there was no questioning his success at the college level. After being drafted by the Bears, instead of being elated that he had achieved something that so many people dream about, Benson was livid because the Bears were not meeting his contract demands.

According to a June 10, 2008 article by David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune, Benson “was bugged that [Bears’ General Manager] Jerry Angelo decided to draft him despite Benson’s representatives making clear in a last-minute phone call that they and the Bears weren’t on the same page regarding fundamental contract demands. Benson was so filled with fury and frustration over the contentious contract battle he knew awaited him, one that eventually led to a 36-day holdout…”

So Benson’s long holdout began and he missed the entire 2005 training camp and finally agreed to a $35 million, five year contract. His new teammates were not enthused with him after he said he would replace Jones as the starting running back by the third week of the season even though he had missed all of camp. Shortly after, there were reports that certain players on the Bears were intentionally trying to injure him as they felt Jones should be the permanent starter.

After his rookie season, where Benson rushed for 272 yards and no touchdowns in nine games in a backup role, his performance was much better in 2006. In his second year, he rushed for 647 yards and had six touchdowns while still in a backup role. Despite personal issues between Benson and Jones, they made a great team as a two-headed monster while helping lead the Bears to Super Bowl XLI.

Jones was traded to the New York Jets the following season and Benson was finally the featured back for the Bears. Though, he couldn’t adapt to being a starter and was mostly inconsistent in 2007. He only rushed for 674 yards and had four touchdowns in 11 games before enduring a season ending injury against the Denver Broncos.

Benson's mugshot after his May 3, 2008 arrest.

On May 3, 2008, Benson encountered his first brush with the law as a pro. He was arrested for operating a boat while intoxicated and resisting police arrest. Bears Head Coach Lovie Smith later said:

“We expect the guys to do what they’re supposed to do when they’re supposed to do it. It’s as simple as that. Stay out of trouble. The same things your employers ask you to do. That’s what we’re asking our guys to do around here. But it doesn’t work like that always. Guys get in trouble in all fields in society. Of course, ours is talked about a little bit more. But we’re disappointed whenever we’re talking about something that puts the Chicago Bears in a negative light.”

Benson didn’t get the memo. Five weeks later, Benson was arrested again, this time for operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Shortly afterwards, Jerry Angelo told the media “It’s unfortunate. Disappointment is too much an often used word when we’re talking about Cedric. The No. 1 lesson for every player is protect your job. We’re all held accountable for our actions…”

Two days after that media address, Angelo waived Benson. Angelo released a statement saying: “Cedric displayed a pattern of behavior we will not tolerate… As I said this past weekend, you have to protect your job. Everyone in this organization is held accountable for their actions.”

Benson, however, was given a second chance with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2008; signing a one year deal shortly after the season began. Benson came to life with the Bengals and after a solid 2008 campaign; he broke loose in 2009 rushing for 1,251 yards and six touchdowns. Benson’s best game came against…….the Chicago Bears. In Week 7, Benson ran for a career high 189 yards with one touchdown as his Bengals destroyed the Bears 45-10.

Where was this version of Cedric Benson when he played for the Bears? Yet the old Cedric Benson would pop up again soon enough. In June 2010, Benson was arrested for assault after allegedly punching a bartender. Benson refuted the charges and wasn’t suspended by the NFL. Benson had another nice season in 2010, rushing for 1,111 yards and seven touchdowns.

Despite finally getting his career back on track, Benson still cannot stay out of trouble. So it wasn’t surprising when Benson was arrested again yesterday for assault…again.

A delighted Cedric Benson after being arrested on June 17, 2011.

Benson’s attorney made an announcement on Sunday saying, “Mr. Benson has been charged with misdemeanor assault arising out of a conflict with a former male roommate. The two had difficulties resulting from Mr. Benson asking the former male roommate to leave his home a few days prior to this incident. The conflict became physical early this morning and we intend to fully investigate.”

It has to make one wonder why a person who’s been given a second chance continues to make trouble for himself. Benson isn’t the first person to blow an incredible opportunity and he certainly won’t be the last. One thing is for sure, he’s no longer the problem of the Chicago Bears and regardless of his recent success in Cincinnati, the Bears’ organization should have no regrets about letting this man go. He continues to be a ticking time bomb and he’s his own worst enemy.

It will be interesting to see how Benson’s latest troubles will affect his career. He’s currently a free agent and when the NFL lockout ends, it’s unknown whether or not the Bengals will re-sign him. Any team that does sign him will be rolling the dice and taking a risk.

When are you going to learn, Cedric?

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