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Benson likes what's Ced; Horton welcomes Cioffi

Cedric Benson

Updated: 7:25 p.m.

Cedric Benson is hearing all the right things from Jay Gruden via running backs coach Jim Anderson.

And he had yet to hear the quote from the day Gruden took the job two weeks ago:

"We have to run the ball between the tackles. We have to be a physical team up front. We're going to challenge our offensive line to be physical. We're not going to spread out and go no-huddle every down and throw the ball 65 times a game. I intend on pounding the ball and being able to pound the ball."

Benson, who felt he was underused last season, heard.

"I intend on pounding the ball and being able to pound the ball," Benson repeated Tuesday. "Well, that's my kind of guy. That's my game. I'm excited about this guy. I think Gruden is exactly what Cincinnati needs. I think it's going to be an exciting season."

Whether Benson is a part of it remains a big unknown. He's scheduled to become a free agent March 4 and at 28, three seasons removed from his comeback from the depths and off two 1,000-yard seasons, he's "looking for what I lost" when it comes to a contract.

"I got there, I worked my butt off, I ran hard, played hard, and I'm looking for my stuff," Benson said. "I would think if you're the owner of a team, you would want to pay a guy like me. I've been solid, I've produced, you know what you're going to get from me. I want to come back. I want to play there. I've gotten a lot of love and support from people. I hope it works out."

If a collective bargaining agreement doesn't come off by March 3, Benson and the rest of the NFL are going to be in suspended animation. He'll have to wait for a deal.

"I've got an agent for that," he said. "It's one of those things that you have to put out of your mind because it's something that is out of my control. All I can say is I'm working on being a bad-ass next year on the field."

Which, naturally, means he's going to tweak his nutrition. Benson is extremely health-conscious and already disdains processed food as well as gluten.

"I'm looking to put just pure protein in my diet," Benson said. "Liquid protein. That's going to be the biggest change."

Benson says if the money is right, he's back because the offense sounds like it's what he wants. He says the Carson Palmer situation isn't a factor for him. He hopes he comes back, but he's aware of Gruden's seven-year stint on a Tampa Bay team that rarely had any quarterbacking.

"This guy has been (on a team) that won the Super Bowl without a great quarterback," said Benson of the 2002 Buccaneers.

CIOFFI NAMED:Ray Horton used to get his own coffee, but Louie Cioffi got everything else when they first started working together at Cincinnati's Spinney Field 14 years ago.

On Tuesday, Horton, the new Cardinals defensive coordinator, officially welcomed his new secondary coach to town. Cioffi, the former Bengals assistant secondary coach, first met Horton as a 23-year-od computer maven, quality control coach, and youngest full-time assistant coach in the NFL who had just been the C.W. Post wide receivers coach. Horton may have been a grizzled two-time Super Bowl champion, but when head coach Bruce Coslet's first Bengals staff started working, Horton, the secondary coach, understood hard work.

"This is a guy that worked his way up from the mailroom," Horton said. "He did everything for us and even though he was the last guy out of the office at night, he was the first guy to turn the light on in the morning. He understands what everyone is doing, the D-line, the linebackers ... he's articulate, he's diligent, he's a professional. There's a lot to be said about a guy that works his way up the ladder. He hasn't had anything handed to him."

With Horton vowing to call a blitz on his first snap, Cioffi started lobbying shortly after he signed the deal Tuesday,

"I hope it's Adrian Wilson," Cioffi said of his four-time Pro Bowl safety.

It turns out the kid from C.W. Post now has the longest consecutive stint by a Bengals defensive coach and he goes back to where it all began. Dick LeBeau was his first defensive coordinator and it's LeBeau under whom Horton studied the last seven seasons in Pittsburgh and it is that 3-4 zone blitz package Horton is going to employ.

"Ray and I were hired together here and worked for four years on that staff," Cioffi said. "We stayed in touch and we've played against each other in the division and have a lot of respect for each other. We're going to be doing what we did under Coach LeBeau in the late '90s with a 3-4, so it's going to be pretty familiar."

Cioffi thanked Bengals president Mike Brown and his family, as well as secondary coach Kevin Coyle. Coyle replaced Horton in 2001 as the secondary coach after three stints as a college coordinator and  since 2003, when Cioffi became his assistant, the Bengals have been in the top three in the NFL for total interceptions in that stretch.

"I learned a lot of technique and 4-3 schemes from Kevin with what he did at Fresno," Cioffi said. "He gave me a lot of leeway with the safeties and showed me how to work with players."

Horton thinks he's learned a lesson from those days in the late '90s when LeBeau tried to turn "Blitzburgh" into Blitzinnati. By the middle of the 1999 season, the Bengals had to revert to a 4-3 as some of their young roster struggled.

"It's a proven system. But you have to have the players in the right position," Horton said. "If you can't play chess, you have to play checkers. I said this forever in Pittsburgh: How many rookies did you ever see the Steelers start? Not many because it's a complex system."

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