Cast off, smile on for Benson

Reed Schreck

What Cedric Benson had, and didn't have, on Monday was noticeable.

He didn't have a cast on -- it had just been taken off his fractured leg. That helped explain what he did have on -- a smile.

"I'm just feeling good, ready to start rehab and get rolling," the Chicago Bears running back said at Halas Hall, where players took turns clearing out their lockers.

Benson hasn't had to use his locker much since he was injured Nov. 25 against Denver.

He talked optimistically about the future because of how he finished the past. He had 136 yards rushing on 19 carries combined against Seattle and Denver in back-to-back games, including runs of 21 and 43 yards.

That left him feeling his overall numbers (674 yards rushing, 3.4 average, four TDs) didn't reflect his abilities -- the ones that had critics pointing to his 3.0 yards per carry before the final surge. Experiencing the best success he's had in three seasons as a Bear made the timing of the injury frustrating.

"No question. We were getting it together. It was happening," he said.

Enough so that he thinks there shouldn't be any question that he can be a No. 1 back.

"Of course I would say I don't think it's fair," he said of doubts. "But if those questions are brought about, then so be it.

"I feel it's established. I don't feel like I need to prove anything."

He just needs to get healthy, which he sees no problem doing. He says he'll be running and cutting in eight weeks. Then he'll just need to pick up where he left off once he gets back.

"I knew nothing was going to be easy," he said of 2007. "I knew nothing was going to be handed to you.

"I knew I wasn't going to go out there every game and there'd be just holes for me to run through and have field days every game. I knew it was going to be tough every week."

If Chicago brings in competition for him, so be it.

"I've had it before," he said. "You all know the competition that goes on around here. It doesn't matter to me. Maybe somebody else can get the criticism.

"No, I wouldn't be surprised (if another running back is brought in). Yeah, but they'd be wasting their time."

Then came one last smile.

Reed Schreck is the NFL writer for the Rockford Register Star. Contact him at 815-987-1381 or