Bernard missed last week's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars due to hip and collarbone injuries, which he sustained in the previous week's game against the Baltimore Ravens. The back did not practice all this week and has been listed as doubtful for Thursday's game.
Bernard is Cincinnati's leading rusher this season with 446 yards on 109 carries, adding five touchdowns on the ground. He was replaced in the starting lineup against the Jaguars by rookie Jeremy Hill, who had career highs of 24 carries, 154 yards and two touchdowns.
Hill, who the Bengals selected in the second round of this year's NFL draft, is expected to again get the bulk of the carries against Cleveland with Bernard out.
Two other starters, linebacker Vontaze Burfict and cornerback Leon Hall, were ruled out on Wednesday. Burfict is missing his second straight game after arthroscopic knee surgery, having also missed time earlier this season due to concussions and a neck injury.
Hall sustained a concussion against the Jaguars and did not practice this week.
For the Browns, receiver Andrew Hawkins, who spent the last three seasons with the Bengals, will be a game-time decision on Thursday. Cleveland has already ruled out tight end Jordan Cameron and safety Johnson Bademosi due to concussions.
The Bengals are 5-2-1 and in first place in the AFC North, while the Browns are close behind at 5-3. Thursday's matchup marks the first time since 1988 that each enters the game with at least five wins and a winning record.
- Ben Estes