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Green Bay RB Benson goes on IR, could still return

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) - The Green Bay Packers are dealing with yet another loss.

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Running back Cedric Benson, who has had 71 of the team's 111 carries, was placed on injured reserve Wednesday because of a sprained left foot, but was designated to return. He must sit out eight games before he can play again, though he will be eligible to practice after six weeks.

``We feel that he can come back,'' coach Mike McCarthy said. ``A foot sprain is definitely a tough injury to come back from, but within that time frame we feel that he definitely has a chance. ... He's a true pro. He's been excellent. He spends a lot of time in the weight room. I could see him being one of those guys that comes back and plays the last four weeks of the season.''

But Benson's injury is another blow for the struggling Packers (2-3). Since opening last season with 13 straight wins, Green Bay has dropped five of its last nine games, including a 30-27 loss in Indianapolis on Sunday on a last-minute touchdown by rookie Andrew Luck. The defense, which gave up the most yardage in the NFL last season, again ranks in the bottom half of the NFC.

The bigger problem, however, is the offense. The Packers aren't putting up anywhere close to the points they did last year, and Aaron Rodgers has yet to show the form that won him the MVP title last year. Though he is third in the league in completion percentage (68.8), he is 21st in average yards gained (6.92).

Now the Packers are without Benson until December, at the earliest. They travel to unbeaten Houston for the Sunday night game.

The running game may seem like an afterthought in McCarthy's offense - he acknowledged there's a temptation to give his quarterback ``too much'' - but Green Bay needs some balance, and Benson was a good fit. He had revived his career in Cincinnati after early struggles - on the field and off - with the Bears, and seemed to grow more comfortable in Green Bay's offense with each game.

He'd clearly gained the trust of Rodgers and McCarthy, too.

``Ced's been great for us,'' Rodgers said. ``He's been a leader. He's had a great attitude. He's been a great example for those young guys about what a professional looks like.''

Making Benson's injury even more troublesome is the deep drop-off that occurs after him. His 248 yards rushing was more than the rest of the Packers combined, and Rodgers is the only other Packer in triple digits (108 yards). Alex Green is the hottest of the running backs left, and he's had all of 11 carries - nine of which came in Indianapolis. Of his 57 yards rushing, 41 came on one play.

``I feel good, I feel confident,'' said Green, who missed the last nine weeks of last season with a knee injury. ``The opportunity has presented itself. I have to do my job as a teammate and step up to the plate and help my team win.''

The Packers also have James Starks, their leader in rushing yards last season. But he has yet to play this year after missing the preseason with a toe injury. Brandon Saine, used primarily on special teams until now, could get some looks, too.

``We've all got to pick each other up,'' receiver James Jones said. ``There's no magic to it, we've just got to go out there and be the Green Bay Packers.''

NOTES: WR Greg Jennings (groin), DT B.J. Raji (ankle) and TE Jermichael Finley (shoulder) all missed practice, and McCarthy said he will wait until later in the week to decide if they'll play in Houston. But Finley promised he'll be ready. ``If it's my call,'' Finley said, ``I'm playing.''

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