GREEN BAY—Cedric Benson won't start practicing next week when he's first eligible, but the latest report on his recovery is positive and the veteran running back expects to return sometime in December.
Benson has been out since injuring his foot in Week 5 in Indianapolis. He was placed on injured reserve with the designation to return, a one-time IR exemption each team was allowed this season that requires the player to sit out of practices for six weeks and games for eight.
According to the new rule, Benson is eligible to return to practice next week. He told reporters at his locker on Friday that he's not ready, yet, but he wasn't ruling out playing on Dec. 9 against Detroit, his first eligible game.
"I think we're still a little bit out from practicing, putting on a cleat and pounding on it," Cedric Benson said. "I think we're still a couple of weeks away from that, but very close.
"I'm very confident about saying I'll be back before the season is over."
The Dec. 9 game may be pushing it, too, though Benson said he'd do everything he could to make it back by then. He also knows who's next on the schedule after that.
"I'm kind of looking … thinking, the Bears game?" Benson said with a smile and a chuckle, referring to the Dec. 16 contest against Chicago, the team that drafted him in 2005. Benson rushed for 81 yards against the Bears back in Week 2.
Mike McCarthy noted on Friday that Cedric Benson's "rehab has picked up" after some positive test results came back over the past week, but the head coach hasn't picked a specific return date, either.
Benson emphasized that he's going to make sure the foot is fully healthy before he returns. He said he's been running on a special treadmill that supports a portion of his body weight, and he's done some work on a full-weight-bearing "speed ladder."
"I think if I come back early, if I try to rush it, (the foot) can really affect me," he said. "I think it's in my best interests and the team's as well, and my contribution to the team, to come back when it's ready to come back."
Cedric Benson was the Packers' leading rusher when he went down, with 71 carries for 248 yards (3.5 avg.) and one TD in 4½ games. Having joined the team in the middle of training camp, Benson was learning the offense on the fly and began broadening his grasp of it in Week 4, when he rushed for a season-high 84 yards against the Saints. Then he got hurt the following week against the Colts.
For a while, he wondered if he would need surgery, but that question has since been answered. Rehab was the right course of action, and he has continued learning his playbook, studying film and attending some meetings while he's been out.
"I feel very strong about the playbook and all that," he said. "I think coming back, that obstacle will be eliminated."
At that point, with the mental hurdle cleared, it will be about physically getting back to game speed, which Benson confessed will be difficult to achieve in practice. But he found his rhythm once this season under difficult circumstances and he's confident he'll find it again.
"It's almost one of those deals that's inevitable. You need a game or so to be right," he said. "But I'm going to try my best to be already up to speed." Additional coverage - Nov. 16