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Benson runs lead; Coles next?

12:40 p.m.

As the Bengals offense begins a massive transformation that head coach Marvin Lewis hopes continues with the signing of veteran wide receiver Laveranues Coles, running back Cedric Benson officially began his reincarnation as one of the team leaders.

All signs were pointing to a deal with Coles getting closer and closer, a move that would bring quarterback Carson Palmer two receivers with more than 600 career catches.

Asked about filling the void of wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Lewis said they addressed it last year "in the draft" with Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell, and, in an apparent allusion to Coles, he indicated other moves are on the way.

At Benson's Wednesday news conference the themes were redemption and resiliency as the Bengals celebrated his two-year, $7 million deal he hopes punctuates his comeback and the team revives their battered running game.

"Absoulutely," Benson said when asked if he was going to be at the offseason workouts. "Part of it is building team camaraderie. We've got a young team. You build that in the offseason and it kind of rolls over to other guys as they grow up in this league. Being here for the summer workouts can propel not only yourself, but your team."

The Bears, no doubt, would recoil in disbelief. After three difficult seasons in Chicago, they cut him last summer following two alcohol-related incidents in Texas. But his life began to turn the last week in September when a grand jury failed to indict him in both cases and the Bengals signed him Sept. 30.

"Usually when you're at your lowest points in life, that's when you achieve your greatest accomplishments," Benson said. "I'm grateful I was blessed with the state of mind and the ability to tackle that and achieve that."

Although he visited the Texans a few days ago while flirting with the idea of playing close to home backing up Steve Slaton, Benson not only had a starting job in Cincinnati but loyalty.

"I know I've got Marvin at my back. A lot of the position coaches," Benson said. "Just the fact they gave me a chance when no one did. I was home. I wasn't playing football. There was lot of negativity surrounding me as not only a player but my character off the field as well. I'm sure they second-guessed the thought at times, but they followed through."

After rushing for three 100-yard games in the final eight games of the season spliced by a career 171-yard effort in Cleveland despite not wearing pads until October, Benson is looking forward to a full offseason and preseason.

"It's a (chance) to get your gun loaded and all your bullets fired accurate," he said. "It gives me a chance to be well rounded in the entire playbook and not just in most of the running game. It's a chance to fully capture it all."

Benson heads up a backfield of tailbacks with Chris Perry, Kenny Watson, DeDe Dorsey, and James Johnson. With the expectation of a running back to be drafted after the first day, one of those could be looking at getting released.  

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