The Green Bay Packers made a bold and, for them, an unorthodox move on Sunday by signing veteran running back Cedric Benson.
Benson (5-foot-11, 227 pounds), who will turn 30 on Dec. 28, fortifies a position that’s been decimated by injuries. Including running backs and fullbacks, the Packers have eight on the roster. They’ve been down to four for the last two practices, including two pure running backs: Alex Green, who’s on a snap count while coming off a torn ACL, and undrafted rookie Marc Tyler.
Benson immediately provides a big name to a young and unaccomplished corps of running backs. James Starks (679 yards), John Kuhn (405 yards), Brandon Saine (69 yards), Green (11 yards), Jon Hoese (first year) and rookies Tyler, Duane Bennett and Nic Cooper have a combined 1,164 rushing yards in the NFL. Benson, by contrast, has averaged 1,143 yards over the last three seasons.
Benson, with 5,769 yards in seven seasons, rushed for 1,251 yards in 2009, 1,111 in 2010 and 1,067 last season. He is one of only five running backs to top 1,000 yards in each of the last three seasons, joining Chris Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice and Steven Jackson. That’s a far cry from the start of his career. The No. 4 overall pick of the 2005 draft by Chicago, Benson rushed for 1,593 yards, caught just 26 passes and scored 10 touchdowns.
When the Packers hosted Cincinnati in Week 2 of the 2009 season, Benson rushed for 141 yards on 29 attempts as the Bengals won 31-24.
Benson, however, has some major issues, including fumbles and off-the-field troubles.
Like he did in Chicago, Cincinnati and the University of Texas, Benson will wear No. 32. He’ll share that number with rookie safety Micah Pellerin.
To make room on the roster, the Packers placed undrafted rookie tight end Eric Lair (knee) on injured reserve.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.