A wrong, righted.
Less than 24 hours after cutting Francis Bernard, a questionable move met with fan dismay, the Dallas Cowboys managed to retain the impressive undrafted rookie linebacker, who signed to the 16-man practice squad upon clearing waivers, the team announced Sunday.
Bernard was arguably the Cowboys’ biggest surprise of the 53-man roster cutdown period. The Utah product consistently flashed in what was for him a fantastic training camp.
Working his way to first-string reps, the 6-foot-1, 230-pound defender notched two interceptions through the team’s first four practices, including a pick-six of starting quarterback Dak Prescott. He consistently “turned heads” in practice, as USA Today’s Jori Epstein put it, and grabbed the attention of his higher-ups.
“Hell of a job,” is how the coaches reacted to his propensity for picks, per Epstein.
Bernard stood out to such a degree that his Dallas defensive mates spoke of his roster odds as if he was a stone-cold lock.
“I think he’s really taken off,” LB Leighton Vander Esch recently said on 105.3 The Fan, via Sports Illustrated. “He’s a smart kid. He plays fast and obviously he’s made plays. He’s gotten an interception in the last two padded practices so I think he’s making a name for himself. And I think he’s gonna be awesome for our room. Pumped to have him with us. Like I said, he’s smart. He plays fast. He’s instinctual. He’s going to be huge on special teams for us and when he finds his time on the field, he’s going to do just fine.”
Among several UDFAs added by the Cowboys following the 2020 Draft, Bernard began his collegiate career at BYU, arriving as a running back before changing hats as a sophomore. He allegedly violated the university’s honor code prior to his junior campaign, finishing his brief Cougars tenure with 47 solo tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, three INTs, two sacks, and a forced fumble.
Bernard (6-1, 230), following a year away from football, received permission to play for the Utes in 2019. He was an instant hit — literally — tallying 85 total tackles (7.5 TFL), two INTs and a pick-six across 14 games. His effort resulted in first-team All-PAC-12 honors.
Bernard’s NFL scouting profile, via The Draft Network’s Joe Marino, projected an upside developmental ‘backer at the next level.
Which is what he can expect on the Cowboys’ taxi squad, where he joins fellow LB Ladarius Hamilton. Though it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that Bernard will eventually be elevated to the active roster.
The team locked in five LBs (Vander Esch, Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, Luke Gifford, and Joe Thomas) before sending Lee to short-term injured reserve and releasing (prior to re-signing) Thomas and veteran backup Justin March.
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