Bears general manager Jerry Angelo expressed disappointment that running back Cedric Benson put himself in a situation last weekend that resulted in his arrest near Austin Texas, but Angelo said the team isn't rushing to judgment in the case and that he expects Benson to be at training camp competing for the starting job in July.
"The thing that I am most disappointed in is the fact that he put himself in a position to be the victim," Angelo said Saturday night at the Bears Care Gala at Soldier Field, which benefits cancer research. "That's the disappointment. He's done a real fine job in the off-season, (but) obviously this makes big story lines. That's not good for business. Unfortunately we're having to deal with it, and we'll just wait and see how all the facts present themselves."
Benson was arrested late Saturday night, May 3, on Lake Travis and charged with boating while intoxicated and resisting arrest. He has vehemently disputed both claims and is threatening legal action, claiming that he was arrested and then pepper sprayed without cause or provocation. Since the incident, two witnesses have backed Benson. One was a guest on his 31-foot boat while another said he observed Benson being mistreated by officers when he reached Emerald Point Marina where he was transferred from the Lower Colorado River Authority to Travis County Sheriff's officers.
Coming off arguably the worst of his three disappointing seasons with the Bears, Benson was expected to face an uphill battle for playing time against second-round pick Matt Forte even before the legal problems. There has been speculation that the Bears might release Benson, but Angelo dashed those rumors.
"There's no plans to cut him," the Bears' GM said. "I'm a little surprised it's an everyday story, but unfortunately it is and he's having to deal with it. I'm not anticipating any reason why he wouldn't be (in training camp). We'll just let the courts decide what the facts are and we'll go from there."
Benson's 674 rushing yards last season were a team high and a career best for the fourth overall draft pick in 2005. But his 3.4-yard average per carry was significantly less than the 4.1 yards he averaged in each of his first two seasons, when he rushed for 272 yards and then 647 yards in 2006.
Benson, who was never seriously hurt in high school or college, has been unable to avoid injuries since joining the Bears. He has been sidelined with a separated shoulder, a sprained knee (twice) and the fractured left ankle that ended his 2007 season after 11 games. Benson is still in the process of rehabbing the latest injury, but he hopes to be 100 percent healthy by the start of camp July 23.
"What he needs to do is get himself up and going," Angelo said. "He's fighting for a starting position, he's hungry, and he's ready to go. Our focus is on the season, and we'll get through this."