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More notes: Gruden stays grounded on flip; Sticking with Benson; Limited Cundiff may bounce Graham

Posted Dec 28, 2011

Updated 8 p.m.

The highlight of Bengals wide receiver Jerome Simpson’s perfect 10 somersault against the Cardinals has made it all. From Deadspin to a live SportsCenter and after Wednesday’s practice offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said he’d like to enter Simpson in an NBA dunk contest because “I would think he would have a good opportunity to win that.”

But Gruden is also a coach and therefore not a big fan of anything risky.

“I would rather have him stick his left foot in the ground and walk into the end zone. But he made it a little more exciting than I would have liked,” Gruden said. “It shows what type of athlete he is. A great athlete. Unbelievable. But I would prefer to just get the six points the easy way and walk in. I think he could have, but he saw what he saw. You can’t take that away from these guys. In the heat of the moment they see different things and when you watch film and slow-mo it and rewind it … you have to coach them up the best way you can, but when the ball is in their hands, the ball is in the quarterback’s hands, or the receivers’ hands, you have to hope they make great judgment calls.”

The Cards tape is not the first one the coaches froze to gape at Simpson’s leaping abilities. They did it when he dunked over the goal post in Seattle and when he leaped over a cameraman on the sideline against the Colts.

From Deadspin to deadpan.

“I would never coach that move,” Gruden said. “I can demonstrate it, but I would never coach it.”

STICKING WITH CED: It is the biggest mystery of the Bengals stretch run.

Running back Cedric Benson didn’t fumble the ball on his first 237 touches of the season and in the past two games he’s put it on the ground five times on his last 36 touches. Two with nearly unthinkable consequences last Saturday in the fourth quarter as the Bengals nearly blew a 23-point lead in the final 11:25 of the 23-16 victory over Arizona at Paul Brown Stadium.

But the Bengals are hanging with Benson, author of two of the nine 100-yard games the Ravens have allowed in the last 82 games.

“We’re married to him right now," offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said after Wednesday’s practice. “He’s a guy that has had great games against Baltimore in the past. We need him to run between the tackles and be his physical self and not worry so much about it. He’s had a ton of carries before the last couple of weeks where he hasn’t fumbled. He’s got to get back in that mentality, get his confidence going and protect the football better. Obviously putting the ball on the ground is unacceptable no matter your position.”

Benson, stand-up as usual, took the questions before practice, running through the two lost fumbles against the Cards. He says, simply, he has to stop trying to do too much.

The first came after his eight-yard gain with 9:19 left in the game, where Adrian Wilson got in on the tackle and fellow safety Kerry Rhodes recovered at the Bengals 39.

“I was kind of going down and the guy got his shoulder pad on it,” Benson said. “It wasn’t necessarily a punch but he got his shoulder pad on it. It was a good play by him.”

The second one very nearly tied the game with 3:04 left. Defensive end Calais Campbell swatted it out of his hand when Benson couldn’t break the tackle and Rhodes again recovered at the Bengals 22.

“I was kind of wrapped up and trying to drive through a tackle,” Benson said. “You can’t just assume I wasn’t going to break it for a long run, but the defense was closing in on me. I just have to play the game. Let the game come to me.”

Benson knows he has salted away games late, such as the 39-yard touchdown in Cleveland with 1:49 left that made the opener a two-score game. But then there is last Saturday.

“Just me trying to do too much; trying to create big plays and create long runs and get something going,” Benson said. “Whether it be a spark for the team or try to put the game away, it’s me trying to do too much as opposed to playing football and let the game come to me.”

This is not a subject being taken lightly at PBS this week. As Gruden said, “it will end his career" if not fixed.

“It’s just not his career he’s dealing with. He’s dealing with everybody’s career in here. Coaches, players alike and seasons are at stake here. Ball security is very important,” Gruden said. “Hopefully it doesn’t affect him. Hopefully he does understand the importance of protecting it because it is something that I know Coach (Marvin) Lewis won’t put up with. No team will put up with that.”

Benson, who has averaged 57 yards per game against Baltimore since his 117-yard day against the Ravens at PBS in ’09, understands. But he also knows he can’t make drastic changes and stray from what makes him successful.

“You don’t do anything. You do what you did all week, and don’t get out there and try to be Superman,” Benson said. “You get out there and play football and when the opportunity presents itself to make a play, make the play and don’t try to make any plays that aren’t there.”

The armchair analysis is that he’s holding the ball too far from his body. But both Benson and Gruden don’t want to get too analytical about the thing.

“People always have something to say when something happens. Nobody says anything 200 something carries prior to,” Benson said. “But naturally when things happen people like to have their advice. Like I say, it’s me doing too much.”

Gruden is concentrating on making sure his bell cow still has his signature confidence.

“Keep it high and tight. Protect the ball a little more,” Gruden said of what he’s said to Benson. “He’s had a lot of carries in his career where he hasn’t fumbled. We've just got to get him back on track and get his confidence back where he’s not thinking about it. We’re not scolding him and blaming him for our problems on offense in the second half, but he’s got to hold himself accountable and to a higher standard.”

Benson is … and he’s intent on being The Ced the Ravens have seen.

“Access it and make a decision on what needs to be done and correct it,” he said. “Don’t do too much and keep it tight and run hard."

Benson went on the Baltimore media conference call Wednesday interested in why he hasn't put '09 numbers against the Ravens lately and he alluded to his rotation with Bernard Scott and a more balanced offense.

“We don’t run it like we did in ’09," Benson said. "[We’re] passing and rotating with another back on a lot of series. I don’t have the opportunity to be as executive or as much of a force as I was in ’09.”

But Ravens head coach John Harbaugh knows Benson is the kind of physical back that can stand up to what Baltimore's second-ranked NFL rush defense can offer.

"He runs those zone schemes as well as anybody in the league," Harbaugh said. "He picks his spots, he doesn’t get in a hurry, and he waits for you to make a mistake. So, two things: You’ve got to be patient when you’re playing gap control – as they say. You’ve got to control the man in front of you, stay square, tear off blocks and make plays. And, you’ve got to create some things, some free-hitters in the backfield, to try to get some negative-yard plays if you can.”

CUNDIFF LIMITED: The Bengals may not get their former kicker Shayne Graham on Sunday if Billy Cundiff continues to improve. Cundiff missed last week's game with a calf injury, but was limited in Wednesday's practice. If Cundiff can bounce back Thursday, the thinking is he'll go Sunday and the Ravens will cut Graham. That would be five years and a day after Graham's miss from 39 yards out with eight seconds left in the season cost the Bengals a playoff berth. 

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