During his time as a staple in the Cincinnati Bengals’ backfield, Giovani Bernard was known more for his actions than his words. After his retirement from football in April of this year, the former North Carolina Tar Heel will be making words his stock-in-trade.
Bernard is joining a fraternity of former players in the broadcast booth and will make his debut for Sports USA Radio today when the Baltimore Ravens visit Cincinnati.
“Hopefully things go well,” Bernard recently shared in an interview with Shelby Dermer of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “I might as well give it a try. It’ll be a fun new experience. Get the goosebumps, get the adrenaline going in a different way. So, it should be fun.”
And, just like he did on the football field during his eight years as a running back for the Bengals, Bernard got straight to the point when he talked about his expectations for his former team.
“They need to win this game,” Bernard said. “Not to silence the doubters, not any of that, but just for team morale. I think that’s a big thing. When you go 0-2 in the division going into the season it’s kind of tough. For them to win this game, it’ll be a big help for them.”
During his time in Cincinnati, Bernard helped lead the Bengals to three playoff appearances and a pair of division titles, and finished No. 8 all time in rushing (3,697 yards) and No. 10 in rushing touchdowns with 22.
His last season in the Queen City (2020) was also the first for current Bengals’ quarterback Joe Burrow. Even though Cincinnati started just 2-6-1 before losing Burrow to a season-ending knee injury, Bernard knew there was something special about the new Bengals’ signal-caller.
“Those games in the early parts of that year, you could see the type of playmaker that he (Burrow) was and the type of leader he was,” Bernard said.
After battling back from a torn ACL/MCL, Burrow led Cincinnati to an appearance in Super Bowl LVI in 2021 before losing a hard-fought contest to the Los Angeles Rams, then back to the AFC Championship game last year before another close loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Earlier this month, the Bengals made Burrow the highest-paid player in the history of the NFL with a five-year, $275 million contract that included $219.01 in guarantees money.
“Obviously now, you see what he’s been able to do his first few years in the league,” Bernard said. “[He is] a guy I have a tremendous amount of respect for. To be able to bounce back from an injury like that; well-deserved contract extension, well-deserved with all the accolades he’s received.”
Bernard showed the same kind of respect for head coach Zac Taylor, who suffered through two losing seasons in Cincinnati (6-25-1) before helping to turn the franchise around. Taylor brought a new kind of culture to the Bengals’ locker room, and that culture has paid dividends on the field.