Browns DE Benard feels “blessed” after accident

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“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.”

Benard expressed his gratitude to the Browns, whom he said were there “from Day One.” The team could have released him following the accident because it was a nonfootball-related injury, but the Browns chose to pay him the final 12 game checks on his $525,000 salary.

“Words can’t even describe how wonderful they’ve been to me,” he said. “I will forever appreciate the Browns for what they did for me.”

Benard said he no longer rides a motorcycle. The one he was on when he wrecked last October, one day after the Browns completed their bye week, had its front wheels torn off by the impact. Following the crash, Benard said his first thoughts were about his three boys, Domanic, Marcus Jr., and Ashai.

“That’s my heart and I don’t ever want to disappoint them,” he said. “I want to be there for them.”

Browns coach Pat Shurmur has noticed a physical change in Benard, who bulked up last year when the team switched from a 3-4 to 4-3 defensive front. Benard says he now weighs 260 pounds.

“He’s much leaner,” Shurmur said. “He looks much more fit and he’s flashed a little bit. He looks like he’s putting himself in position to have a good camp.”

Shurmur also believes Benard has matured following last year’s life-altering event.

“I’m glad he’s here and I think we all go through things in life that refocus us on doing things the right way and allowing us to be able to continue things that are important to us. He’s done that.”

Not that he did before, but Benard now knows not to take anything for granted.

The crash has made him more aware, more thankful.

“Blessed,” he said. “Above anything, blessed. I’m happy to be here. It was an event. It’s not something that I can just shrug off or anyone else can just shrug off. I’m not going to say that it was nothing, but it was definitely something and it’s a blessing.”

Notes: Rookie QB Brandon Weeden took the first snaps with the starting offense in team drills, but Shurmur cautioned not to read too much into it. Weeden is competing with QB Colt McCoy, who showed some frustration after a few poorly thrown passes. … LB Scott Fujita was in Philadelphia for a hearing to appeal his three-game suspension by the NFL for his role in the New Orleans Saints bounty program. … WR Greg Little has dropped 11 pounds since last season by watching his diet. Little feels he’ll be much quicker without the weight. … S Eric Hagg had an impressive practice with the first-team defense.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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