It took an injury to get Ken Benson off the field, and another one to put him back on it.
And the time in between nearly drove the former Arkansas Razorback crazy.
Benson made his regular-season debut for the Baltimore CFLs last night against the Las Vegas Posse, starting at weak-side linebacker in place of Matt Goodwin, who hurt his left shoulder in last Saturday's 40-13 win over the Ottawa Rough Riders. He inherited the roster spot belonging to Alvin Walton (right hamstring), another casualty from last weekend's game.
Forgive Benson if he was a tad eager to slip on the pads and hit somebody. He hadn't played since the exhibition opener at Shreveport on June 24, when he broke his right fibula while blocking on a punt return.
That was 15 games ago, though it probably seemed like an eternity to a player who led the league in combined tackles last season while with the Toronto Argonauts.
"It's been difficult, and it really wouldn't matter how the team was playing," he said. "This is what I love to do, what I've chosen to do and what I get paid for. It's where I want to be."
Benson, who made six tackles, was part of a defensive unit that limited the Posse to 47 yards rushing and came up with enough big plays to spark a 22-16 win.
The most important one in the first half was Irvin Smith's interception near the goal line and 54-yard return to kill a Las Vegas drive in the second quarter with Baltimore trailing 9-8. The CFLs took over on the Posse's 54, and four plays later, they had the lead.
"We were in man coverage, the quarterback started scrambling around and made a careless throw, in my opinion," Smith said.
The secondary was burned deep a couple of times in the first half, with Las Vegas quarterback Anthony Calvillo racking up 226 yards, including completions of 51 and 41 yards. But all the Posse had to show for it were three field goals by Carlos Huerta.
Baltimore wouldn't be so fortunate in the third quarter. Michael Stephens was left open down the right sideline for a 38-yard catch after CFLs halfback Ken Watson stumbled. A questionable pass-interference call against Charles Anthony in the end zone put the ball on the 1, and after two plays netted nothing, Jon Volpe bulled in for the score.
"They have a great group of receivers," Smith said. "They're exceptionally fast. Basically, the whole game was nothing but a track meet."
Down by two points, Calvillo looked deep again on Las Vegas' next possession, but Smith broke up a pass intended for Curtis Mayfield down the left sideline.
Las Vegas would get just three first downs after Volpe's touchdown, and one of those came on a penalty. The Posse drove to the CFLs' 38 before Malcolm Goodwin popped Volpe on a draw play, causing a fumble that Baltimore's Robert Presbury recovered on the 41.
End of drive.
The defense had bent again, but it also had held together.
"This is the type of team that runs a lot of draws and screens," Goodwin said. "It was just my responsibility to make sure the back didn't get a lot of yards on that and make sure I made a good, clean tackle."
"We made a lot of big plays when we needed to," said cornerback Karl Anthony. "They were running a lot of deep routes and they were keeping their backs in and double-teaming on the line, so we couldn't get too much pressure. That's why [Calvillo] was able to get the ball away. But we did pretty well."