Benson feels the love from home crowd, if not the opposing bench
CINCINNATI - The final player on the Paul Brown Stadium turf finished his network television interview and turned gleefully toward the south end zone.
The one where he could hear the love for which he's been waiting his entire professional career.
"CED-RIC! CED-RIC!" roared hundreds of Bengals fans.
And Cedric Benson, once a Bear of ill repute, greeted them a huge smile and slapped their hands Sunday night as he danced into the tunnel on his way to the comfort of Cincinnati's locker room.
The final score of Sunday's "Benson Bowl" was a victory of Ditka-sian proportions: Benson a career-high 189 yards and the final word, Bears 0.
The one-sided affair came 16 months and 16 days after the Bears released Benson in the wake of two alcohol-related arrests.
Now Benson leads the NFL with 720 rushing yards - 246 more than the Bears.
"It's over," Benson said. "It's done with. I've been moved on and now we all can move on. I played against the Bears. I had a wonderful day."
Then the 26-year-old Texan, not for the first or last time, slowed down to make sure he measured his words and said what he wanted to convey.
"I'm sure they maybe, kind of, regret some of the decisions that they made."
Benson claimed he kept himself from being "overly emotional" at the start, but his teammates sensed his urgency.
"He's not that talkative, but when he does say something you definitely listen," said Bengals right guard Bobbie Williams. "You feel his energy and his power. He's a wonderful guy to block for. He's something special.
"Actually, I think we wanted it more for him than he wanted it. He wanted it, too, believe me - he told us early, 'Let's get this thing rolling,' in a polite way.
"From that point on, he didn't have to say too much more. And as it was rolling, he said, 'Heckuva job, guys. Let's keep it up.' "
Benson powered through holes big and small to earn the biggest day of his career. He punished Lance Briggs and Danieal Manning, among others, on some of his runs.
Though the game was out of control, Benson kept playing until the end in search of 200 yards and just a little bit of acknowledgment from the other sideline.
After one fourth-quarter run, he looked over at the Bears side in what could be construed as a benign form of taunting. At game's end, Benson met several of his former workmates in the middle of his home field.
"I really wanted to say hello to Lovie (Smith), but I think he shook Marvin's hand and went right off the field," Benson said. "You know, if I was a head coach, I'd probably be a little disappointed in the way my team had played that day, too, considering the outcome of the game.
"I talked to a lot of defensive guys. I didn't really talk to many offensive guys - the running backs coach (Tim Spencer) came up to me and said hello. Talked to (receivers coach) Darryl Drake. A lot of the staff. The strength coach. Some of the training staff. A lot of people came to say hello."
Yet, as Benson closed the book on his Bears experience, he noticed some unwilling to acknowledge how this tale ends.
"I think a lot of people didn't come to say anything," Benson said.
"You might assume that the people that didn't say anything that it was probably best for them not to. Maybe felt a little guilty."