Now that all Bengals players, including the recent free agents signed by the team, are able to practice together at Georgetown, the team is beginning to take shape. One of the most important free agents for the Bengals to sign was running back Cedric Benson.
Benson, known for his downhill running style, was considered a high priority to re-sign even though he fumbled the ball seven times last season while only giving the Bengals a 3.5 yards per carry average. He was also arrested during the offseason for an altercation with a former roommate. For these reasons, many fans felt that the team should move on from Benson and sign somebody else -- possibly make a move for Jason Snelling, Ahmad Bradshaw or DeAngelo Williams.
"If you ask everybody on the team who works the hardest, 99 percent of them say Ced," Palmer said. "If he had a hole in his game last year, he's going to fix it. He's not a fumbler. It's like Adrian Peterson. One season he coughed it up a bunch and then he coughed it up twice or once (the next year). He's that kind of guy."
Even though the Bengals are coming off one of their most disappointing seasons in franchise history and the team is starting fresh with a new quarterback and offensive coordinator, Benson was excited to come back to Cincinnati. The changes that he saw the organization make made him want to be a part of the team.
"Changes were happening and I was excited about the changes," Benson said. "I'm not talking about anything in particular. I'm talking about the organization as a whole. Even from staff or players to the dining, or something in the locker room. Changes were starting to happen."
Some believe that Benson has a chip on his shoulder. It wouldn't be hard to buy into that theory if you watched him run in 2009, especially against the Bears, his former team. In that game, Benson rewarded anybody who drafted him for their fantasy football teams by running for 189 yards and a touchdown. He ran like he wanted to show his former team what they missed out on. Benson doesn't believe he has a chip on this shoulder, though.
"I wouldn't necessarily call it a chip," Benson said, "other than me feeling unsatisfied with my career at this point. I want to go out on top. I feel I'm doing what I need to be doing to achieve that. That's why I'm so eager to get this playbook down fast."
The guy who wrote that playbook, new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, had something very simple to tell Benson once he signed his one-year $3 million contract: "If you're going to get paid like the big dog, you're going to get the ball like the big dog."
Benson doesn't mind. He wants to be the big dog and he warns defenses to be ready.
"When I get the playbook down, the defense better be ready," he said.