Still under thirty-years old, it feels like Bernard has been in the league longer than he has, but still has plenty left in the tank as he signs on to try and make his first run at a Super Bowl title.
We’ve heard other Bucs players using words like culture, atmosphere, and others. Words which depict the impact the arrival of Tom Brady made on the organization on and off the field, beginning in March of 2020. This ‘feel’ wasn’t lost on the veteran running back, something he says he felt the moment he walked into the team’s headquarters.
“You can already feel the difference,” Bernard said, speaking to Tampa media for the first time on Wednesday. “Just the atmosphere. As soon as I walked into the building...You can tell there’s an excitement still buzzing. Obviously you guys won the Super Bowl last year, but you can kind of tell nobody’s kind of let their guard down. Everybody’s excited for that next run, and I’m just excited to be a part of that.”
The excitement coming from Bernard was something you could feel, even through the lens of a Zoom call. In fact, he was so excited to talk about joining his new team, the answer quoted above wasn’t even a direct answer to the question asked to him by Rick Stroud of Tampa Bay Times.
Of course, I’m sure Stroud can forgive someone who’s been fighting on a less than competitive team for most of his eight-year NFL career, who just went from a team with a Top-5 pick in the NFL Draft, to the defending champions in just one week’s time.
Bernard isn’t devoid of playoff experience. In fact, his Bengals made it to the playoffs in his first three-years in the NFL. Losing each time in their first game. Then, from 2016-20, Bernard and the Bengals didn’t see postseason action again. Which is good for the Bucs anyway. Less tread taken off Bernard’s tires.
The assumption now is Bernard will use some of what he’s got left to improve the Bucs’ passing abilities out of the backfield. And Bernard is hoping teaming up with Tom Brady will help him reach career heights he’s yet to achieve in Cincinnati. Which is more along the lines of what Stroud asked him about in the first place.
“Just being able to work with Tom; that in itself is something that was really really tough for me to pass up on,” Bernard said after ESPN’s Jenna Laine was gracious enough to allow him time to answer Stroud’s initial question. “Just to be able to build that relationship with him. Obviously you see the things he’s done throughout his career. Obviously coming here last year and doing what he did with the team...his reliance on the running back is huge, and I’m sure that’s how it is across the league. And me personally...it’s not just about the passing. I always take into account the blocking...”
Bernard also referenced New England Patriots running back James White as someone who he spoke to in depth when figuring out where he wanted to play after being released by the Bengals.
White was a fan and media favorite to sign with Tampa Bay this offseason because of what he brings to the field in contrast to existing backs like Ronald Jones II, Leonard Fournette and Ke’Shawn Vaughn.
Bernard also does some of those things, but he was clear to mention the team hasn’t given him a clearly defined role. Of course, this fits with the coaching style of a staff under Bruce Arians’ leadership. Instead, Bernard will be one of four running back (for now) who enter training camp looking to show Arians, offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, and Brady just how valuable he can be to the team’s offensive goals.
For now, it’s all excitement and looking forward to the future with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after leaving the Cincinnati Bengals with appreciation behind him, and hopefully a Super Bowl ahead.