Bucs Get Promising News on Injured Pass Catcher

Todd Bowles

Getty Todd Bowles and the Buccaneers could have more depth at running back soon.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers received some good news in returning from the bye week on Monday, November 21.

Bucs running back Giovani Bernard returned from injured reserve after nine weeks off the field. The Bucs signed Bernard as a free agent in 2021 for his pass-catching ability, and the Bucs re-signed him in 2022 though he only caught 23 passes for 123 yards and three touchdowns last season.

Bernard showed greater potential with the Cincinnati Bengals beforehand with 342 catches for 2,867 yards and 11 touchdowns in eight seasons. He ranked third for receptions by running backs in the league in that timeframe, per Buccaneers.com’s Scott Smith.

An ankle injury sidelined Bernard after just two games this season and led to his stay on injured reserve. Bernard can return to practice this week and play as soon as the Week 12 game against the Cleveland Browns on November 27.

Bernard only played on special teams those first two games, but the Bucs could use him for depth at running back. The Bucs running attack struggled the first nine weeks of the season with a historically dismal 60.7 yards per game.

Bernard Could Aid Bucs’ Running Game Turnaround

Tampa Bay’s running game potentially turned a corner against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 10 with a season-high 161 yards rushing. Rookie running back Rachaad White ran for 105 yards on 22 carries in that win. Running back Leonard Fournette averaged 4.1 yards per carry amid 57 yards and a touchdown on 14 attempts.

Fournette struggled otherwise this fall with only two other games where he managed four yards per carry or better. He also ranks 14th in total attempts, and he previously called for other Bucs running backs to get more involved.

Bernard ran sparingly in 2021 with 58 yards on eight carries, but he has a career average of four yards per carry from his time in Cincinnati. He rushed for 416 yards on 124 carries in his final season with the Bengals in 2020.

White in the meantime has taken on a bigger role for the Bucs, which already alleviates Fournette’s workload. White has shown solid pass-catching ability out of the backfield, too, with 20 receptions for 135 yards thus far.

Bucs quarterback Tom Brady likes to utilize running backs as pass-catchers, and bringing back Bernard adds another option. Between Fournette and White, Brady has 63 completions for 450 yards and three touchdowns.

Two Other Bucs Returning to Practice from Injury

Bucs wide receiver Russell Gage and guard Luke Goedeke returned to practice on Monday after being out with injuries, according to FOX Sports’ Greg Auman. Both players missed the Week 10 game in Germany.

Goedeke, a second-round draft pick from Central Michigan, started the first seven games amid injuries to the Bucs offensive line. Goedeke then suffered a foot injury and hasn’t played since Week 7 as Nick Leverett took over at guard.

Gage, a free agent signing in the offseason, has 29 catches for 231 yards and a touchdown this season. He returns amid the Bucs’ two-game winning streak where the passing game has taken off compared to a rough October.

The Bucs signed Gage with the idea of him being a reliable third receiver. He caught 66 passes for 770 yards and four touchdowns the previous season with the Atlanta Falcons.

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