GREEN BAY – Cedric Benson’s season is over.
While the Green Bay Packers will get one of their impact players back this week (wide receiver Greg Jennings) and are expecting to get their two Pro Bowl defenders (Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews) back in the coming weeks, they’ll have to move on without their veteran running back.
Coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday that Benson had surgery Wednesday on his injured left foot and will remain on injured reserve for the rest of the season. The surgery came following Benson’s visit to a specialist this week in Charlotte, N.C.
After Benson suffered the injury Oct. 7 at Indianapolis, surgery was initially ruled out for what was diagnosed as a Lisfranc foot sprain and Benson was put on IR with a designation to return, meaning he could have practiced staring last week and played as soon as the Dec. 9 game against the Detroit Lions.
In fact, in an interview on Nov. 16, Benson said he wanted to play against the Lions so he’d have one game under his belt before facing his former team, the Chicago Bears, on Dec. 16 at Chicago.
“I’m kind of looking and thinking the Bears game,” he said with a smile at the time. “I think we’re still a little bit out from practicing, from putting on a cleat and pounding on it like that. I think we’re still a couple of weeks away from that, but very close, very close. Kind of the way the doctor puts it to me all the time is regardless of anything, whether you could play tomorrow, you’ve still got three weeks where you can’t play.”
Now, he can’t play at all. And Benson, who had carried 71 times for 248 yards and one touchdown and caught 14 passes for 97 yards before the injury, is set to become a free agent after the season.
“If this was last year, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to come back. So it is a good thing,” Benson said on Nov. 16 about having the chance to return. “It’s tough, and considering where we were progressing to and where we were when things did happen and sidelined us for a while, it’s tough to deal with. I was going up and down with, should we have surgery? Let’s wait and see what the foot tells us, what the X-rays — we take several X-rays as we go about this process — and I was struggling a little bit with (that), because naturally when every player gets hurt he wants to come back as fast as he can.”
Without Benson, the offense will rely on a trio of ball carriers for the rest of the season – halfbacks Alex Green and James Starks, and fullback John Kuhn.
“Cedric, I felt, was playing very well each and every week as we moved forward,” McCarthy said Thursday. “With that we’ve been rotating Alex Green, James Starks and now having John Kuhn back, I feel we have a good rotation. It’s just really finding the things they all do well and play to that and have that in sync with the run-blocking unit. I thought the way we started last game and I thought Arizona was a good game. If we can just kind of find that rhythm that definitely would benefit us.”
As a team, Green Bay is ranked 23rd in the NFL in rushing, averaging 100.7 yards per game while averaging 3.8 yards per carry. Their two rushing touchdowns are the fewest in the league.
“We just need to pick up our end now. I think we've been doing that the last couple of weeks,” Kuhn said. “We've been playing hard, we've been getting better each and every week since Ced's been out. We were all sorry to hear that he wouldn't be coming back this season. It's definitely a blow. But we've all got to pick up a little bit of slack.”
Zach Heilprin covers the Packers for WBEV and WXRO radio in Beaver Dam, sister stations of ESPNWisconsin. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/zachheilprin.