Benson back after two-week layoff

Published 1:14 am Thursday, November 3, 2011

CINCINNATI (AP) — Cedric Benson was back at practice with the Cincinnati Bengals on Wednesday, ending a two-week layoff that was shorter than he’d expected.

The running back went home to Texas for the Bengals’ bye week, then stayed there to serve a one-game suspension for violating the NFL’s conduct policy. The Bengals (5-2) won without him, beating Seattle 34-12 on the West Coast.

Benson was added back to the 53-man roster on Wednesday and expects to get most of the carries at Tennessee (4-3) on Sunday afternoon.

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The two weeks away seemed to rejuvenate him.

“Just time to rest the body and mind, just put things in perspective,” Benson said before practice. “It’s amazing what the time away does. You put so much into this and when things don’t go well, it tries to mess with you.

“Getting away from it helps put it in perspective. I hate missing the game, but two weeks is a blessing in disguise. Have to have something positive to say about it.”

There was one other positive for Benson: It could have been much worse.

The NFL originally proposed a three-game suspension after Benson settled two misdemeanor assault cases in Texas. He served a five-day jail sentence before the season began, then waited to see if the league would punish him.

Benson appealed the suspension on grounds that the second arrest came during the NFL’s lockout. He argued that players shouldn’t be disciplined for anything that happened when there was no collective bargaining agreement.

The league disagreed, citing federal labor law. It also noted that the first of the two cases occurred last year. But the penalty was reduced from three games to one, which Benson considered a victory. He feared the league would stick with the three-game ban.

“Yeah, it is (a victory),” he said. “I thought they would do what they normally do. Having some facts and having them look at it is a change in the right direction.”

The challenge on Sunday is to get the running game moving against one of the league’s lowest-ranked run defenses. The Titans are giving up 129 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 27th overall.

The Bengals want to run the ball to take the pressure off rookie quarterback Andy Dalton. They did well at the start of the season, with Benson topping 100 yards in two of the first four games. In his last two, he’s managed only 53 and 57 yards against defenses stacked at the line to stop the run.

Bernard Scott carried 22 times for 78 yards in a 34-12 win at Seattle, filling in for Benson.

“I think a lot of people expect us to be a run-only type team with having a young quarterback and young receivers,” left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “I think teams are doing a great job of crowding the (line) and making it tough to run the ball, but we can still do it and we just have to do it more effectively and more efficiently. But we’re on our way.”

Benson doesn’t expect anything negative from his two weeks away.

“I don’t expect to have to adjust or get back in any type of groove,” he said. “I’m on top of things and will hit the ground running.”

Notes: The Bengals rested their beat-up defensive backs on Wednesday. Missing practice were CB Adam “Pacman” Jones (hamstring), CB Nate Clements (knee) and safety Chris Crocker (knee). TE Jermaine Gresham (hamstring) and LB Rey Maualuga (sprained ankle) worked out on a side field as well. … Jones said his right hamstring, which he pulled during a punt return in Seattle, felt about 60 percent strong on Wednesday. He said he’ll play in Tennessee if it feels 70 percent to 80 percent healed. … Brandon Tate won the AFC’s special teams player of the week award. He returned a punt 56 yards for a touchdown at Seattle, the Bengals’ first punt return for a score since 2003.