Bears send home Benson, later release troubled running back

Updated: June 10, 2008, 3:11 AM ET
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

After his boating DUI charge, Cedric Benson remained a starting running back in the eyes of coach Lovie Smith and the Chicago Bears.

His weekend DUI charge while in a car in Austin, Texas, has led to his release, however. The Bears placed Benson on waivers Monday, two years before the end of his contract and three years into a disappointing career with the team.

"Cedric displayed a pattern of behavior we will not tolerate," Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said in a statement. "As I said this past weekend, you have to protect your job. Everyone in this organization is held accountable for their actions. When individual priorities overshadow team goals, we suffer the consequences as a team. Those who fail to understand the importance of 'team' will not play for the Chicago Bears."

Benson wasn't present at the Bears' organized practice Monday. The Chicago Sun-Times reported on its Web site that Benson showed up and was sent home by Smith.

Reporters waited for a statement from Angelo as he walked off the field on Monday, but he said the team might have a statement later in the day.

High Picks, Low Production

This isn't the first time the Bears drafted a running back high and it didn't work out. Of the tailbacks selected in the top five in the past 10 years, the Bears have had two of the four with the least production over their first three years.

Draft, Pick
Player, Team
Yards
1998, 5th Curtis Enis, CHI 1,497
2005, 4th Cedric Benson, CHI 1,593
2005, 5th Cadillac Williams, TB 2,184
2005, 2nd Ronnie Brown, MIA 2,517

The statement turned out to be an action. Benson's name appeared on the NFL's waiver wire Monday afternoon, ending the three-year relationship.

Though the 5-foot-10, 220-pound runner claimed his innocence on both DUI charges, the team apparently lost faith in him. Because he's been in the league for only three seasons, Benson does not have his contract automatically terminated. He can be claimed by any other interested team on waivers.

Before his release, Benson made one last-ditch effort to repair the situation, issuing an apology on Monday afternoon.

"I apologize for making the poor decision to drink and drive during the early morning of Saturday, June 7th," he said in a statement. "Given the incident last month, it was a particularly bad decision. I have no excuse for this lack of judgment.

"Though I strongly believe that I am not guilty of any crime, I realize that the public and the Bears organization hold me to higher standard. Though my local attorneys will continue to work hard to prove my innocence, I confess to using poor judgment. Please accept my deepest apology."

Benson was arrested on a drunken driving charge in Austin early Saturday and Bears officials said they would treat the matter seriously.

Benson's attorney, Sam Bassett, said Saturday that the former Texas star had a few drinks with dinner, but didn't think he was intoxicated, although he acknowledged his client would "probably be in trouble with his team."

Benson was pulled over for running a red light and refused to take a breath test or provide blood samples Saturday, Austin police spokeswoman Veneza Aguinaga said.

Bassett, however, said Benson thought the light was yellow when he went through around 2 a.m. but stopped immediately when police appeared, and he added that Benson told him he wasn't speeding or driving recklessly.

Bassett also said Benson offered to provide police a blood sample for testing and believes video of the arrest will show his client did well in the field sobriety test, although he hasn't seen it yet.

Texas law allows a driver to take a blood or breath test for alcohol content, Bassett said. When Benson offered to take a blood test, the arresting officer told him he'd have to take a breath test, which Benson refused, Bassett said.

Bassett said he has requested a copy of Benson's arrest videotape and hoped to watch it with a representative of the NFL and or the Bears, as early as this week.

"They pulled the trigger early," Bassett said of the Bears. "It's a disappointment to me."

The arrest comes a month after Benson was charged in Austin with boating while intoxicated and resisting arrest. He has said neither charge is true, and those cases are pending.

Benson rushed for only 1,593 yards in three seasons. Thomas Jones was the Bears' starting running back for Benson's first two seasons. Jones was traded to the Jets before last season, giving Benson the chance to start.

It didn't work out on the field. Benson rushed for only 272 yards on 67 carries last season. He couldn't finish the season because of a broken leg.

The Bears drafted Tulane running back Matt Forte in the second round, and he will enter camp as the team's possible starter. Adrian Peterson, a longtime Bears backup, will initially be second string.

It is not known whether the Bears will pursue another running back.

Benson was the fourth pick in the 2005 draft. The team will save $820,000 on the cap by releasing him, but there will be a $2.575 million proration that will count against the 2008 cap. There will be a $2.575 million cap charge for the Bears in 2009.

Senior writer John Clayton covers the NFL for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer

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