Browns DE Benard feels "blessed" after accident

Associated Press Modified: May 30, 2012 at 7:01 pm •  Published: May 30, 2012

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — As sweat beads streaked his cheeks, defensive end Marcus Benard looked out at the green practice fields behind the Browns' training facility.

For a time, he didn't know if he'd see them again.

He made it back.

Seven months ago, an instant of recklessness on a motorcycle nearly took Benard's life. At 26, a highly paid professional athlete just tapping into his potential, Benard, who had beaten the odds and made an NFL roster as an undrafted free agent, almost threw everything away and left three young sons without their father.

Benard was lucky. He lived and learned.

"I appreciate life," he said. "And I appreciate the sport that I'm playing and my responsibilities to it. It's a blessing and I feel like it's a plan.

"I'm very happy to be here."

Benard spoke to reporters Wednesday for the first time since his harrowing experience. Before answering questions, he smiled and shook hands with several media members, another step in his recovery completed.

On Oct. 10, Benard had just left practice when he crashed his three-wheel Can-Am Spyder into a guardrail on Interstate 71. Brooklyn Police estimated that the 6-foot-2, 260-pound Benard, who led the Browns in sacks the previous season, was thrown an estimated 80 yards before coming to a stop.

He broke his right hand and sustained other unspecified injuries that required a three-day hospital stay at The Cleveland Clinic. Benard declined to discuss any specifics about his horrific accident or other injuries. The only visible reminder of his traumatic ordeal is a long, thick scar tracing from the middle of his right hand past his wrist.

Benard was asked if the wreck had changed him.

He paused, perhaps searching for the proper words.

"It did," he said. "But you live and you learn from everything. You walk up stairs and you stub your toe and you say I'm going to pick my feet up this time. So I learned a valuable lesson, just the appreciation of life. I feel like it was a blessing and you learn your lessons.

"You learn more about life. You learn more about yourself. Sitting out and going through what I went through — rehab and everything — you always sit back and evaluate yourself and evaluate your position in life."

When he was finally cleared to return, Benard remembers his mind filling with many thoughts as he ran back onto the field with his teammates.

"I was just excited just to be back with the team and to be back on grass," he said. "Life's chaotic, but the football field is where we're comfortable, where I'm comfortable and it was just a joy to be able to have that chance again and to be able to be on the team."

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