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“The approach taken was that the offense would grow through Andy, and I think that was the best approach,” Lewis said. “I think we saw it happen that way. The things we opened the season doing in Cleveland, and where we finished, were much different. I think that was a show of his abilities and the growth of him, and the players around him.”

Lewis also decided to get running back Bernard Scott more carries as the season went along, reducing Benson’s time on the field. The third-year backup carried 112 times for 380 yards during the regular season, both career highs. Benson wasn’t thrilled with the sharing arrangement.

The Bengals have to decide on a starting running back for next season. Benson returned for 2011 on a one-year deal, expecting to be a key part of the weekly gameplan. Instead, his role was diminished as the season went along, which surprised and disappointed him.

“Being a running back and knowing the capabilities we have in the run game to be successful on teams regardless of what they want to throw at us, it’s always been a force for us in the four years I’ve been here,” Benson said. “So it is a little disappointing.”

The Bengals have plenty of options in the draft, with an extra first-round pick from trading Carson Palmer to Oakland. They’d like a running back who can catch the ball in the West Coast scheme they adopted this season.

Benson doesn’t have an idea of where the team is heading at his position.

“I’m open for anything,” he said. “I don’t know what the future’s going to hold. You never know going into being a free agent, things like that. I don’t have any closed doors.”