FOXBORO -- Marcus Benard knows he's lucky to be alive.
"I consider myself blessed," he said Saturday. "I definitely feel like somebody's watching over me."
On October 10, 2011, the former Browns defensive lineman left practice on his Can-Am Spyder. Witnesses on Interstate-71 in Cleveland say Benard zoomed past them on his three-wheeled motorcycle and crossed all four lanes of traffic before crashing into a guardrail. According to the police report, he was thrown 241 yards from the bike.
"I'm sure you've read the stories. But somebody's watching over me. It's been a tough journey, but I'm here now and I'm just going to keep on working and doing what I've always done."
Benard sustained only a broken hand, but was forced to sit on Cleveland’s reserve/non-football injury list after just four games. It was the first of a few major hits to his promising football career.
"It was tough," he said of the lost season. "This is what I love to do and this is what I'm used to. I've been playing this sport for a long time, so not playing was tough for me. But it kept me hungry, it kept my grinding and wanting it even more."
The future uncertain, Benard poured his energy into rehab.
"Honestly, I was just working on trying to get better. Whatever the outcome was -- whether I got released, whether I stayed on the team -- the main goal for me personally was to get healthy. So when an opportunity presented itself I was ready for it."
He made it back for the Browns' 2012 offseason workouts and continued to progress through training camp. But fate struck again; Benard suffered a severely dislocated elbow. Cleveland cut its losses and released him October 9 with an injury settlement.
"You stay positive, but bad things happen and you've got to work your way through them. I can't say I smiled and laughed through everything -- definitely not," Benard admitted. "But I just stayed focused, knew what my goals were and where I wanted to be in life so I just kept my nose to the ground and kept working."
His luck turned when the Patriots called. After one workout, the team quietly signed the 6-2, 256-pound pass rusher to a futures contract January 21.
Head coach Bill Belichick recalled the move before Thursday's training camp practice: "We felt like he’d be a good future signing, good addition, to this year. He was here in the offseason, worked hard in the spring. He’s been competitive out there."
Benard's current situation may be the best its been in a while, but he hasn't hit Easy Street yet. The 28-year old is currently trying to catch sight of the roster over the heads of Jermaine Cunningham, Justin Francis, and Jake Bequette.
What cards can he play? Benard considers himself a pass rush specialist and is using the line drills to set himself apart. Going against veterans like Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer can only help.
"When you get 1-on-1's, that's my opportunity to get better, work on my negatives and ups, and get in a rhythm because you're singled out and it's your time to shine. It's pretty much man-on-man: Who's going to come out victorious?"
It's about time Benard got back to winning.