Packers shore up hole with Benson

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Cedric Benson is on his way to Green Bay.

Packers running back Alex Green on Sunday confirmed Benson’s imminent arrival.

“I was informed today that Cedric Benson will be coming in, so that’s a great thing for us,” Green said in an exclusive interview with “It’ll help the team out. He’s a great running back. That’ll be a great thing for us to learn from and get a better feel for the running back position.”

Hours later, Packers general manager Ted Thompson announced Benson’s signing.  To make room for Benson, tight end Eric Lair was placed on injured reserve.

Benson is 29, so it remains to be seen whether the skills that helped him rack up three consecutive 1,000-plus-yard seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals will turn around a Green Bay running game that finished 27th overall in the NFL last season and 24th overall in 2010.

Chicago drafted Benson fourth overall in 2005, but he never lived up to expectations: The Bears released him after three seasons that never amounted to more than 674 yards in any one year.

However, Benson soon found a home with the Bengals and produced 19 touchdowns and 3,429 rushing yards over the past three seasons. Considering the Packers were led in rushing in 2011 by James Starks with 578 yards, Benson should be an immediate upgrade.

Green Bay, which did not re-sign veteran Ryan Grant, entered training camp this season with Starks as its No. 1 running back. But Starks’ poor performance in the Packers’ preseason opener — including a dropped pass and a fumble on the opening drive — was apparently enough to convince Thompson to fly Benson into Green Bay and get a deal done.

Plus, Starks has not been able to practice since that game because of a turf toe injury.

Before signing Benson, the Packers planned to use second-year running backs Green and Brandon Saine behind Starks. Green was a third-round pick in 2011 but played little before a torn anterior cruciate ligament ended his season. Though Green passed his training camp physical and has been participating in practices and in the team’s first preseason game, he’s been on a limited amount of snaps as coach Mike McCarthy eases him back. Saine, who went undrafted in 2011, also has been battling an injury, having missed the preseason game in San Diego because of a hamstring issue.

Benson has not had injury problems in recent seasons but has had his share of legal issues.

He was arrested in 2008 for two separate incidents of driving while intoxicated, once in a boat and the other time in a car. However, Benson was found innocent of one charge and was eventually cleared of the other. In 2010, Benson was arrested for alleged assault but was not suspended by the NFL. But in 2011, during the lockout, Benson was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of assault, served five days in jail and received a one-game suspension from the NFL.

If Benson is able to do a good job in pass protection for quarterback Aaron Rodgers and can help resurrect Green Bay’s struggling running game, this could turn out to be a significant signing for a team that hopes to win its second Super Bowl in three seasons.

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