When Cedric Benson saw the official word that former Patriots running back
Reached a few minutes later Benson said "he was forever grateful" to the Bengals for the part they played in reviving his career four years ago when the Bears cut him just before training camp.
"I figured that meant I probably wouldn't be going back to Cincinnati. There are no hard feelings. I loved my time there. I can't thank the fans enough for the way they supported me," Benson said of the BJGE signing. "I'm so forever grateful for the recommendation that I think came out of Chicago and for Marvin (Lewis) believing in me and for the Brown family for giving me a chance."
The Bengals have to be thankful, too, because their running game in the middle of the 2008 season in the wake of the Chris Perry implosion was a shell. But Benson's comeback off the street in October 2008 made it legitimate and in '09 it became the centerpiece of the AFC North title, capped by the club's biggest postseason rushing game ever with 169 yards in the Wild Card loss to the Jets.
Then the running game went off the rails in the T.O. reality show in 2010, and in 2011 new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden irked Benson as he tried to establish a rotation with Benson and
But Benson says he knows adjustments have to be made as the game changes.
"I was excited with the changes and with the new coordinator," said Benson, frustrated by what he felt was a repudiation of the run game in the wake of the Owens signing. "Coaches have visions, players have visions. I have no hard feelings. It was a challenge for me because I've been used to being the man ever since I've been playing tackle football. But I think (the experience) is going to help me."
Benson was cleared of two alcohol-related offenses that spurred his release from the Bears in the spring of 2008. He had two separate offseason incidents the past two summers that netted him a few days in jail and a one-game suspension this past season.
"I've had off-field issues. I'm getting past them, putting them behind me," Benson said.
He said his 189-yard game against the Bears on Oct. 25, 2009 in a 45-10 victory over the Bears at Paul Brown Stadium had to be one of the major highlights. It is the most yards a running back has ever gained against his old team.
"That's a great memory. I think not only for me but for a lot of fans both in Cincinnati and Chicago," Benson said. "Everything about it. The intensity of the game and the buildup of that week. That's a memory you don't forget."
Benson, 29, thinks he's got plenty of time left to make more memories for someone else. He expects the free-agent market to heat up now that Peyton Manning is in Denver.
"I think everything kind of slowed down waiting for that," he said. "I'm staying positive, optimistic."