Then it all almost slipped away.
On Oct. 10, Benard had just left practice when he crashed his three-wheel Can-Am Spyder into a highway guardrail. Police estimated Benard was thrown 241 feet from the vehicle.
Benard survived the wreck, but he broke his right hand and sustained other injuries that he hasn't publicly discussed. He missed the rest of the season, but is now back with the Browns at OTAs.
"I appreciate life," he said, according to The Associated Press. "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."
Benard says his motorcycle-riding days are over. He was asked if the accident and its aftermath changed him.
"It did," said Benard, who has a lifelong reminder of the wreck in the form of a thick scar on his hand. "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."
Benard now turns to the more trivial task of working himself back into the mix with the Browns. Prior to the accident, he had become a non-factor on a defense that had switched to a 4-3 scheme. Finding his role will be another challenge in a life that's had its share.