Benson Joins Bengals in Workouts


AP Sports Writer

CINCINNATI (AP) - By carrying the ball in the rain with his

former Bengals teammates, running back Cedric Benson sent the front

office another reminder that he wants to be the centerpiece of

Cincinnati's all-new offense.

The free agent joined his former teammates for a voluntary

workout Wednesday at the University of Cincinnati, acting much more

like someone who's ready to lead rather than leave. Benson has

topped the team in rushing each of the last three seasons, but

didn't get a contract extension.

During the NFL's lockout, free agents can't negotiate or sign

with teams. The 28-year-old running back from Texas not only wants

to stay, but is ready to become one of the leaders in an offense

undergoing dramatic change.

"I've been very passive the past three years, maybe just

because I had to," said Benson, who revived his career in

Cincinnati after tough times in Chicago. "I'm not saying I'm a

totally different person or that I'd be crazy vocal or nothing like

that, but I'd be a little more expressive on work ethic and passion

for the game just because that's how I am."

The Bengals plummeted to 4-12 last season, when reality-show

hosts Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco became the faces of an

offense that had a lot of self-promotion but not nearly enough

production. The defending AFC North champions put the focus on

their look-at-me receivers, and ended up in last place.

The TOcho show has been canceled, and quarterback Carson Palmer

- the face of the franchise since 2004 - isn't coming back. While

the NFL and its players try to resolve their labor dispute, Benson

is trying to remind the front office that he's ready for a much

bigger part in a new-look offense.

"Cedric wants to be more than the guy who gets the ball in the

backfield," quarterback Jordan Palmer said, after a morning

workout in the rain. "He wants to be a leader. He wants to be the

identity of the team and the franchise, and I'm all for that."

He attracted the attention of his former teammates by flying in

from Texas to join them for several voluntary workouts.

"To have a guy like Cedric out here - unsigned, showing his

leadership by being here - that's tremendous," offensive tackle

Andrew Whitworth said.

Benson was the focal point of the offense when the Bengals won

the division in 2009, then lost to the Jets in the first round of

the playoffs. The Bengals decided to emphasize the passing game

last season, a move that backfired. Benson thought it was a mistake

to de-emphasize the running game.

Offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski was fired after the season.

Replacement Jay Gruden is bringing in an entirely new scheme, one

that's more West Coast style. The Bengals drafted TCU quarterback

Andy Dalton in the second round as Carson Palmer's eventual


With the quarterback position in flux, the Bengals need a

dependable running back to carry the load.

"You have an offensive coordinator who's coming in and saying

that we're having a running identity," Jordan Palmer said. "And

you have an uncertain quarterback situation, which is going to mean

more carries. That's a green light for him. I know he wants to be

here. He's close with these guys.

"I think he's one of the best running backs in the league and

he's going to be primed to have the best year of his career. I want

him here more than anybody."

Benson likes the changes so far.

"Change can be good," he said. "Considering the way things

went a year ago, it's time for change. I think it's going to be a

good look."

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)