Signs of summertime in Austin: oppressive heat, dinner at food trailers, and Cedric Benson leaving the Travis County jail. Sunday marked the fourth time in the last three summers that the former Longhorn running back has been arrested in what the cool kids call the ATX.
The details of the latest episode have Benson punching a former male roommate in a dispute over living arrangements. Previously, on the Cedric Benson show:
June 2010: Arrested after a scuffle at Annie's West bar, charged with misdemeanor assault.
June 2008: Arrested for driving while intoxicated after running a red light near 5th and Colorado.
May 2008: Arrested on Lake Travis for boating while intoxicated. Police claimed he resisted arrest and pepper-sprayed him.
That doesn't include two run-ins with the law during his Longhorn career. There was the misdemeanor criminal trespassing arrest in 2003 where Benson spent two days in jail after kicking down an apartment door in search of his stolen plasma television, and a 2002 marijuana possession charge (later dropped).
To Benson's (and his lawyer, Sam Bassett's) credit, grand juries declined to indict him on the 2008 intoxication charges. He has denied the charges in the 2010 assault case, which is currently pending.
We understand, trouble may find anyone once. Bad luck, poor judgment, the indiscretions of youth; hell, even being a football star back in the town where you had great college success can increase your odds of a face-to-face with law enforcement officials. But something needs to change for Benson in this volatile mix.
The best result would be for Benson to grow up. A 28-year-old professional doesn't need to be getting arrested every nine months. Nothing good ever happens after 2 am, and his latest arrests have all happened in the wee hours of the morning. Just follow whichever catchphrase you like - man up, get your grown man on, etc. - and get your life together.
On the other hand, maybe Austin is the problem. During the football season, Benson is in Cincinnati, the league leader in arrested players. Since 2000, 35 Bengals have run afoul of the law, more than any other team. While surrounded by guys who have seen the back seat of a squad car, Benson has been a model citizen and productive player, rushing for more than 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons. But when left to his own devices in Texas, Benson finds trouble. Perhaps, to paraphrase Marcellus Wallace, Benson needs to lose his Austin privileges.
Benson may have cost himself some money with this latest arrest. He's about to become a free agent, and the Bengals would have almost certainly resigned him to a better contract. But now, with the possibility of punishment from the NFL, he's lost a ton of negotiating leverage. He could still return to the Bengals, but the team now holds the advantage.
For Benson, idle hands are the devil's tools. He needs football to keep him occupied.
Two months ago, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis told ESPN the NFL lockout would have unintended consequences. He was talking about society at large, but his quote applies bracingly to Benson's situation.
"Do this research if we don't have a season," Lewis said, "Watch how much evil, which we call crime, watch how much crime picks up, if you take away our game."
Thankfully the lockout is almost over and you can get down to the real business at hand -- researching your fantasy draft.
Benson could be a nice sleeper if he stays out of jail.