The year 2020 epitomized Giovani Bernard.
Nothing flashy, but no quit. Ever.
When Joe Mixon went down with a foot injury during the Bengals’ Week 6 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, Bernard took over as Cincinnati’s lead back.
But the cards, as they say, were already stacked against him. Running behind an offensive line that was troublesome, at best, and just plain horrible, at worse, Bernard managed just 416 yards rushing on 124 carries for an average of only 3.4 yards per carry.
The eighth-year back out of North Carolina did finish with 47 receptions for 355 yards and posted six combined touchdowns.
“Throughout my life I’ve been dealt bad cards here and there, but it’s always what does that next hand holds,” Bernard said after Cincinnati’s Week 15 upset victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. “There is always an opportunity to capitalize. There is always an opportunity to grow from your mistakes or whatever it may have been … It’s in my DNA. I love the opportunity to be able to come back and to be able to do something special.”
Bernard certainly faced his share of adversity this season. In Week 14’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Bernard fumbled on his very first carry to end an NFL-high streak of 829 rush attempts without a fumble. He ended up with only two more carries that day, and finished with eight yards rushing.
And, in the season finale against the Baltimore Ravens, Bernard got only three carries and finished with just seven yards.
But Bernard is worth so much more to the Bengals than what might be reflected in the stats. He is the very essence of a team leader, both on and off the field.
Recently, Bernard was named by the Cincinnati Chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America as the 2020 recipient of the Bengals’ “Good Guy” award, which is given for professionalism and cooperation with the media.
“In a tough year for everyone covering the league, Bernard’s genuine thoughtfulness and honesty made a major difference in being on this beat.” Paul Dehner Jr. said. “His respect and helpfulness during so many of these challenging Zoom sessions was the latest example of a career full of professionalism toward the media.”
For his career, Bernard has amassed 3,690 yards on 918 carries, an average of 4.0 yards per carry, and 22 touchdowns. He has also been a receiving threat out of the backfield with 342 catches for 2,867 yards and 11 scores.
There is not a better all-purpose back in the league, and with a healthy Mixon back in 2021, Bernard should be a key cog in a projected Cincinnati turnaround.