We’ve seen some pretty amazing recoveries over the years with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Leon Hall recovering from not one, but two major torn Achilles to still play at a high level was arguably the most amazing, though Geno Atkins bouncing back from a torn ACL to play at an All-Pro level was remarkable, too.
But the recovery of Giovani Bernard may top them all. Bernard tore his ACL in Week 11 of last season, which for a running back means he probably would open the ensuing year’s training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. This is a very hard injury for running backs to recover from, especially for a guy like Bernard who plants and cuts so much and puts pressure on his knees.
However, Bernard has been having a great offseason in his recovery, and it looks like he could be ready to rock when camp opens on Friday. According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, Bernard is on pace to be cleared by Friday when camp begins, marking one of the more improbably recoveries of the Marvin Lewis era. If true, that would be huge news for the Bengals and Bernard.
It’s worth noting that Bernard did tear his other ACL in college, and recovered just fine, enough so that he was a second-round draft pick by the Bengals. Bernard finished his 2016 season with 91 rushes for 333 yards and two rushing touchdowns to go with 39 catches for 336 yards and one receiving score. This comes after the Bengals signed him to a nice extension during the 2016 offseason, so he’s financially secure after suffering his first major NFL injury.
In four seasons with the Bengals, Bernard has 583 runs for 2,442 yards and 14 touchdowns. He’s also caught 187 passes for 1,671 yards and six scores. The former second-round pick out of North Carolina has been the No. 2 running back for much of his NFL career. He backed up BenJarvus Green-Ellis as a rookie before starting the 2015 season before an injury knocked him down to the No. 2 spot. He’s been behind Jeremy Hill ever since, for the better part of the last three seasons. That may continue with second-round rookie Joe Mixon joining the competition this year.
Bernard has gotten a number of starts during his career, but the 5’9”, 205-pound back has gotten banged up quite a bit whenever he’s received a heavy workload.
Bernard will probably never get a major workload this season as he works his way back from his ruptured ACL while playing in a backfield that has Hill and Mixon to share touches. There’s also sixth-round rookie Brandon Wilson who spent time at running back in college, as well as veteran special teamer Cedric Peerman on the roster. This could make it easy for the Bengals to allow Bernard to practice but deactivate him on gamedays while he builds up his strength and comes back when he’s 100 percent back to where he was before the injury. But, if Bernard truly is 100 percent ready to go for Week 1, he’ll surely see playing time.
All said, this is tremendous news for the Bengals, but especially for Bernard. He’s one of the truly good guys on this roster, so seeing him already close to being recovered from his 2016 ACL injury is wonderful.