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Lewis: Benson 'very close' to returning for Bengals

CINCINNATI -- Even if Cedric Benson is able to play Sunday against Cleveland, he's going to have a lot of company in the Cincinnati Bengals' running game.

Benson returned to practice Wednesday, going through a limited workout because of his sprained hip muscles. The injury kept him out of a 20-17 loss at Oakland.

Coach Marvin Lewis said Wednesday that Benson is "very close" and might be able to play against the Browns, a team he ran over last year. Benson had a career-high 38 carries for 171 yards in a 14-0 win in Cleveland last December in a zero wind chill.

Rookie backup Bernard Scott is expected to get a lot of carries against Cleveland, even if Benson is able to play. Larry Johnson also could see more time on the field in his second game since he signed with Cincinnati.

Scott, a sixth-round draft pick from Abilene Christian, has emerged in the last two games. He returned a kickoff 96 yards for the only touchdown during an 18-12 win in Pittsburgh. He also kept the running game going after Benson hurt his hip during the game, carrying 13 times for 33 yards.

In Oakland, he ran 21 times for 119 yards. The 21 carries were only eight shy of his total for the first nine games.

"Bernard has earned an opportunity to continue to play," Lewis said. "He'll have a chance, and he'll get some opportunities one way or the other. If Ced is back and playing, Bernard will still play a considerable amount this week."

The Bengals (7-3) lead the AFC North by a game over Pittsburgh and will be trying to run the table in division games when they play Cleveland. Cincinnati is 5-0, with series sweeps of the Steelers and Ravens. They won an overtime game in Cleveland on Oct. 4.

A renewed commitment to the running game has been a big part of it. The Bengals have been using an extra offensive lineman in the tight end's spot to block, or put a tight end in the backfield as an extra blocker. Instead of looking to have Carson Palmer throw the ball, the Bengals have been more dependent upon having him hand off.

The Browns (1-9) have committed to stopping Chad Ochocinco and the rest of the Bengals' receivers in the past.

"This is one of the few weeks I'm begging for us to run the ball," Ochocinco said Wednesday. "Once we get to the postseason -- we will be there -- the key is to run the ball. That's why I'm all for it right now."

Scott has quickly become an important part of the offense.

"From day one, I felt I was here for a reason," Scott said. "The more you're out there making plays, the more it helps your confidence."

Scott wasn't used to carrying so many times in a game and got cramps in the fourth quarter in Oakland. He's going to work at keeping his body hydrated this week to be ready for Cleveland.

"I haven't been playing and all of a sudden, I'm playing," he said. "I hadn't played in a game since college, really. I think the more I play, the better my conditioning will get. Hopefully I won't have those problems anymore."

Lewis is confident that Scott will handle the next game better, pointing out that rookies often struggle to get through their first game.

"It kind of blows the pipes out a little bit," Lewis said. "But once you get through it, you're good. That's kind of a one-time situation, and then you're generally good to go. That happens to a lot of guys to start the year."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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