Despite being diagnosed with a mild high ankle sprain late last week, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Giovani Bernard appears on track to play in the season-opener against the Dallas Cowboys this Thursday night.
Head coach Bruce Arians said that Bernard was participating at "full-speed" in Sunday's practice after the rising ninth-year pro missed last Thursday's gathering. It was NFL Network that reported Bernard's ankle injury, although Arians had suggested that the running back was "fine" after he had missed Thursday's rehearsal.
In his 115-game career with the Cincinnati Bengals, before he signed with the Bucs in April, Bernard posted 3697 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns on 921 attempts, while adding 342 receptions for 2867 yards and 11 touchdowns through the air.
This preseason, Bernard took the field with the Buccaneers' offense on a total of 27 snaps, catching the ball three times for 18 yards on six targets while rushing just once for no gain in an extremely limited role, much like the rest of Tampa Bay's starters and top contributors.
Tampa Bay obviously intends to increase Bernard's role moving forward so long as he remains at full speed and is ready to go on Thursday. Neither Ronald Jones II nor Leonard Fournette, the Buccaneers' rotating starters at running back, are quite the pass-catchers and blockers that Bernard has established himself as in his career, which foreshadows plenty of utilization of Bernard on third and passing downs to give the Buccaneers' a new type of offensive weapon in 2021.
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